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After struggling early in the session, the Dow built on five-year highs Tuesday as traders mulled a round of corporate earnings and economic data.
As of 1:45 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 41.5 points, or 0.3%, to 13691, the S&P 500 rose 3.3 points, or 0.22%, to 1489 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 1 point, or 0.03%, to 3134.
American markets were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The blue-chip average closed out last week at its highest level since December 2007. However, whether or not the markets can hold recent highs could depend of fourth-quarter earnings and economic data.
The National Association of Realtors said sales of previously-owned homes fell 1% in December from November to a 4.94 million unit annualized rate, missing estimates of a 5.1 million unit annualized rate. The inventory of homes for sale also dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade.
"While today’s report was below consensus, we remain convinced that the housing recovery is well underway and should continue through 2013," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG wrote in an email. He also notes the overbuilding seen during the housing bubble could be correcting itself given the drop in inventories.
Several major companies are up on the day. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) posted mixed results, with adjusted profits topping Wall Street's forecast, but revenues and full-year outlook trailing expectations.
DuPont (NYSE:DD), the biggest American chemical maker, saw its earnings beat expectations on the top and bottom lines. Travelers (NYSE:TRV), the blue-chip insurer, also weighed in with a beat on profits and revenues. The same can't be said for Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), which reported a profit that widely trailed expectations, but sales that came in slightly ahead of the Street's view.
Results from IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are on tap for after the closing bell.
Also on the economic front, a closely-watched report from the ZEW Institute showed German economic sentiment surging to its highest level since May 2010 in January. Germany is Europe's powerhouse economy, and has struggled to stay afloat as the eurozone debt crisis has pummeled countries it exports to.
"The ZEW readings are consistent with eurozone risk having diminished while activity itself has yet to respond to the improved situation," analysts at Barclays wrote in a note to clients. Still, the investment bank warns that "too much should not be made of one month’s reading" since it is a volatile metric.
The Bank of Japan also stepped up its fight against deflation, setting an explicit 2% inflation "target" after previously working toward a 1% inflation "goal." The move comes amid a fresh push for accommodative fiscal and monetary policy from new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Oil prices were little changed. The benchmark contract fell 4 cents, or 0.04%, to $95.52 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.47% to $2.81 a gallon. In metals, gold climbed $2.90, or 0.18%, to $1,690 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.08% to 2724, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.02% to 6179 and the German DAX slumped 0.41% to 7717.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.35% to 10710 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.29% to 23659.