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Stocks Moving Mostly Higher In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

3/13/2012 9:57 AM ET

Stocks have moved mostly higher in early trading on Tuesday after showing a lack of direction over the course of the previous session. The major averages have all moved to the upside, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 reaching multi-year highs.

The major averages have recently pulled back off their highs for the young session but remain in positive territory. The Dow is up 35.38 points or 0.3 percent at 12,995.09, the Nasdaq is up 19.12 points or 0.6 percent at 3,002.78 and the S&P 500 is up 5.78 points or 0.4 percent at 1,376.87.

The early strength on Wall Street is partly due to the release of a report from the Commerce Department showing a notable increase in retail sales in the month of February.

The report showed that retail sales rose by 1.1 percent in February following an upwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in January. Sales rose at their fastest pace since September, with the sale growth coming in roughly in line with economist estimates.

Excluding a 1.6 percent increase in auto sales, retail sales still rose by 0.9 percent in February compared to a 1.1 percent increase in the previous month.

Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "Bottom line, sales over the past two months were good as the labor market improves but also weather was great in many parts of the country over the past few months so we'll see over the next few months what was pulled forward as a result."

The markets have also benefited from news that European finance ministers have approved a second bailout for Greece worth 130 billion euros.

Nonetheless, buying interest is somewhat subdued ahead of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy announcement this afternoon.

Housing stocks have shown a strong upward move in early trading, driving the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index up by 1.4 percent. With the gain, the index has risen to its best intraday level in almost two years. Radian Group (RDN) and PulteGroup (PHM) are posting notable gains.

Semiconductor, financial, and biotechnology stocks are also seeing early strength, although most of the major sectors are showing relatively modest upward moves.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved back to the upside during trading on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 1 percent.

The major European markets have also moved higher on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.7 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing moderate weakness on the heels of the upbeat retail sales data. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 3.4 basis points at 2.065 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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