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Stock Market News for March 19, 2014

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Receding fears of further military action related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea helped benchmarks end in the green for the second straight day. The S&P 500 moved close to its record high following reports that Russia may not occupy other parts of Ukraine. The Nasdaq got a boost from the surge in technology stocks. Meanwhile, investors look forward to the conclusion of Federal Reserve’s two-day policy-setting meeting on Wednesday. Tuesday’s mixed economic data had little impact on the markets.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.6% to close Tuesday’s trading session at 16,336.19. The Standard & Poor (S&P 500) rose 0.7% to finish at 1,872.25. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index went up 1.3% to 4,333.31. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) plunged 7.2% to settle at 14.52. Total volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 2.9 billion shares. Declining stocks were outnumbered by advancing stocks on the NYSE. For 23% stocks that declined, 75% advanced.
U.S. stocks rallied for the second day in a row after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia didn’t want further partition of Ukraine. Last Sunday, the vote turned to be overwhelmingly in favor of citizens in Crimea wanting to be part of Russia.
On Tuesday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index got a boost from the Technology sector. Key technology stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) increased 0.9%, 1.6%, 3.9%, 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively.
Investors also focused on the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy-setting meeting that will conclude on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting. The Fed is expected to keep the key lending rates low and is also expected to taper its monthly asset purchase program.
On the economic front, mixed economic data didn’t have any significant impact on the markets. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with consumer price data; wherein it reported Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) had improved just 0.1% in February. The increase was in line with the consensus estimate. The rise in food prices by 0.4% and the rise in housing costs by 0.2% were cited to be the reasons behind the slight rise in consumer prices.
The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a small drop in housing starts. According to the report, privately owned housing starts in February slipped 0.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000. Consensus estimate was expecting housing starts to be at 913,000. However, single family housing starts advanced 0.3%.
The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development also reported that building permits gained 7.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,018,000. This was more than the consensus expectation of 960,000. Indication that construction work will increase once the weather warms up encouraged builders to file for permits to construct condominiums and rental apartment buildings.
Nine out of ten sectors of the S&P 500 ended in the green. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) surged 1.1%. Major stocks from the sector such as Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD), Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) gained 1.6%, 0.2%, 3.1%, 2.9% and 1.8%, respectively.

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