Stocks Zig Zag as Traders Digest Data

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

The markets flipped between gains and losses on Tuesday as traders mulled several reports on the U.S. economy.

Today's Markets

As of 3:15 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7 points, or 0.05%, to 13234, the S&P 500 rose 0.18 point, or 0.01%, to 1417 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 9.1 points, or 0.29%, to 3132.

The broad S&P 500 zoomed to its highest level since May 2008 on Monday as traders cheered commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hinting that the central bank will continue on its pro-growth monetary policy regime until the labor market begins improving at a much quicker rate.

The focus remained squarely on the U.S. economy on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas shows home prices fell 0.8% on a non-seasonally adjusted basis in January, a slightly bigger decline than the 0.6% drop expected. Home prices were down 3.8% from a year ago, in line with estimates.

Home prices that were pummeled during the financial crisis have remained depressed and data have shown demand still remains weak while supplies have been running high.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board’s reading on consumer confidence came in at 70.2 in March, lower than an upwardly revised 71.6 in February. The reading was slightly under expectations of 70.3. Analysts have been paying especially close attention to the important consumer sector as quickly rising gasoline prices have begun cutting into budgets.

On the corporate front, Abu Dhabi's ruling family has been involved in talks about acquiring a stake in British state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS), according to a report by Reuters. The report said the deal was not yet closed and that it could take months before it is finalized.

Commodities were little changed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York gained 30 cents, or 0.28%, to $107.33 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline slipped 0.32% to $3.406 a gallon.

In metals, gold ticked lower by 50 cents, or 0.03%, to $1,688 a troy ounce. U.S. Treasuries advanced, pushing yields slightly lower. The 10-year yield fell 0.01-percentage point to 2.241%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips dipped 0.58%, the English FTSE 100 edged lower by 0.56% to 5870 and the German DAX was unchanged at 7079.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 2.4% to 10255 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.8% to 21047.