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Encouraging domestic reports boosted investor sentiment and lifted major indices higher on Tuesday. Positive reports on the U.S. economy pushed the S&P 500 higher and the index is only two points shy of closing on an all time high. Durable orders increased in the month of February. A report on the housing sector showed that housing prices increased in January. All the ten sectors in the S&P 500 industry groups finished in the green with healthcare leading the pack.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.8% to close the day at 14,559.65. The S&P 500 added 0.8% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,563.77. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.5% to end at 3,252.48. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 7.1% to settle at 12.77. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.2 billion shares, significantly lower than 2012’s daily average of 6.45 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For the 68% that advanced, 29% declined.

The Street began yesterday’s trading session on a positive note boosted by encouraging reports on the U.S economy. The Dow Jones rallied more than 100 points and the S&P 500 is only 2 shy of closing on an all time high. This year benchmarks have enjoyed a decent rally thanks to the Federal Reserve’s decision to continues with its bond buying program and encouraging domestic reports.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, new durable orders increased in February. The report noted that new orders for manufactured durable goods increased 5.7% in February to $232.1 billion. This increase follows followed a 3.8% January decline. Orders have been up for five of the last six months. Excluding defense, news orders increased 4.5%. Unfilled orders for manufactured goods increased 0.9% to $999.8 billion.

Another encouraging report was released which showed that that health of the U.S economy is recovering. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index increased in January. According to the report, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home prices index for the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite surged 7.3% and 8.1% respectively over the year ending January 2013. All twenty cities recorded gains in the twelve months ending January 2013 with Phoenix leading the pack with an increase of 23.2%. According to David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices “The two headline composites posted their highest year-over-year increases since summer 2006.”                                                                      

Investors also received some discouraging reports which were overshadowed by these two positive reports. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index plunged in March following a jump in February. The index has declined to 59.7 in March from 68.0 in February. This was well below the consensus estimate of 66.9.  The Present Situation index came in at 57.9 from 61.4 whereas the Expectations Index fell to 60.9 from 72.4 in February.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, new home sales declined in February.  Sales of new single-family houses in February declined to 411,000 from the revised January’s figure of 431,000. This was below the consensus estimate of 424,000.

On the international front, investors breathed a sigh of relief after Cyprus’ lawmakers managed to seal a deal to bailout its banking system. However, bank operations will remain closed till Thursday. The country’s President Nicos Anastasiades said the 10 billion euro rescue plan was "painful" but necessary for the future of the country.                                 

The health care sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Health Care SPDR (XLV) Increased 1.2%. Stocks such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and Sanofi SA (NYSE:SNY) gained1.5%, 1.6%, 1.0%, 1.6% and 1.1%, respectively.

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