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A strong rally in technology shares along with encouraging economic reports on the home front lifted major indices higher on Tuesday. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq recorded their sixth consecutive month of gains. The Dow Jones finished in the green for the fifth month in a row. The Street also received a mixed bag of economic reports. A report on the housing sector revealed that home prices in U.S. increased at the highest pace in nearly seven years. Meanwhile, consumer confidence increased in April whereas Chicago PMI declined. The health care sector was the biggest loser among the S&P 500 industry groups following dismal results of Pfizer.       

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.1% to close the day at 14,839.80. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,597.57. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.7% to end at 3,328.79. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 1.4% to settle at 13.52. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.55 billion shares, higher than this year’s daily average of 6.36 billion shares. Advancing stocks easily outnumbered the decliners. For the 65% that advanced, 32% declined.

Technology bellwether Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained nearly 3.0%, following a $17 billion non-bank bond deal. This is the largest non-bank bond deal in history. The company has taken this step to return cash to its shareholders. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) added 1.7% after the company said it will buy back more shares and also increased its dividend. These developments helped major indices finish in the green.  

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index increased in February. According to the report, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home prices index for the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite surged 8.6% and 9.3% respectively over the year ending February 2013. The 10- and 20-City Composites inched up 0.4% and 0.3% in February.

According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence rebounded sharply after declining in March. The index has increased to 68.1 in April from previous month’s reading of 61.9. This was well above the consensus estimate of 60.7. The Present Situation Index moved up to 60.4 from 59.2 whereas the Expectations Index jumped to 73.3 from 63.7.  On the other hand, Chicago PMI declined sharply in April. The index declined to 49 from 52.5. This was contrary to the consensus estimate of an increase to 52.5. Chicago PMI slipped below 50 for the first time in more than two years.

On the earnings front, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) reported its first-quarter results. The company’s earnings and revenue came in below the Street’s estimate. Pfizer also decreased its 2013 profit and sales forecast. Shares of the company tumbled 4.5% after the quarterly results. 

Health care stocks declined after Pfizer reported lower-than-expected results and a dismal outlook. The Health Care SPDR (XLV) lost 0.8%. Stocks such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY), Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK) dropped 0.4%, 1.7%, 1.1%, 0.5% and 1.5%, respectively.

The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 1.1%. Stocks such as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Texas Instruments Incorporated (NASDAQ:TXN) added 0.7%, 1.5%, 0.5%, 0.8% and 0.7%, respectively.

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