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Stocks Turning In A Lackluster Performance In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

3/21/2012 9:48 AM ET

After ending the previous session mostly lower, stocks are turning in a lackluster performance in early trading on Wednesday. The major averages are lingering near the unchanged line, as traders seem reluctant to make any significant moves.

The major averages have moved to the upside in the past few minutes and are currently posting modest gains. The Dow is up 16.68 points or 0.1 percent at 13,186.87, the Nasdaq is up 7.58 points or 0.3 percent at 3,081.73 and the S&P 500 is up 1.67 points or 0.1 percent at 1,407.19.

The lack of direction being shown on Wall Street comes as some traders have moved to the sidelines following the substantial advance seen over the past several months, which lifted the major averages to multi-year highs.

While recent indicators have pointed to a continued recovery by the U.S. economy, some analysts believe the markets need to stage a temporary correction before they can see any further upside.

At the same time, traders have largely seemed hesitant to cash in on the recent gains amid concerns that stocks could leg up further on more upbeat data.

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves, although notable strength has emerged among housing stocks. The Philadelphia Housing Sector Index is advancing by 1.3 percent ahead of the release of the National Association of Realtor's report on existing home sales.

Economists expect existing home sales to edge up to an annual rate of 4.61 million in February after jumping 4.3 percent to a 4.57 million annual rate in January.

Gold and semiconductor stocks are also seeing early strength, while notable weakness is visible among oil service stocks. Despite an increase by the price of crude oil, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is down by 1.4 percent.

Among individual stocks, shares of Oracle (ORCL) are seeing strength after the business software giant reported stronger than expected adjusted third quarter earnings amid a notable increase in new software license revenues. Oracle is up by 1.2 percent in early trading.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index ended the day down by 0.6 percent, China's Shanghai Composite Index crept up by 0.1 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed over the course of the trading day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has edged up by 0.1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index is just below the unchanged line and the German DAX Index is down by 0.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved to the upside, climbing further off their recent lows. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 4 basis points at 2.332 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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