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Favorable earnings reports on the home front and a not-so-bad bond auction in Spain provide the backdrop for today’s trading action. This morning’s housing report is a bit on the mixed side, but the strength on the Permits side likely trumps the Starts weakness, in my view.

After showing promising momentum in the winter months, housing reports have been less than inspiring lately. Today’s mixed Housing Starts reading follows Monday’s slip up in the housing market index (HMI) and a slew of less-than-encouraging readings on the sector last month. That said, there is nevertheless some evidence of improvement on the housing front, likely setting up the sector for gains in the long run.

In today’s reading, we got a weaker-than-expected 5.8% decline in Housing Starts to the annualized rate of 654K in March. This follows the 2.8% drop in February to the 694K level (modestly revised down). Permits were a different story altogether, likely indicating more strength down the road. Housing Permits increased to their highest level since September 2008, by rising 4.5% in March to the annualized rate off 747K.

Starts had increased by 4.8% in February to the 715K annualized rate. This set of data doesn’t negate the ‘green shoots’ narrative, but it doesn’t build on it either. 

On the earnings front, Goldman Sachs (GS - Free Report) came out with a solid earnings and revenue beat and raised its dividend. And contrary to trends in estimate revisions with the rest of the corporate world, Goldman’s estimates had been moving up lately, increasing by almost 14% in the past month alone. We also got an earnings and revenue beat out of Coke (KO - Free Report) , while Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) modestly came ahead of EPS expectations on roughly in-line revenues.

Today’s flood of earnings reports continues throughout the day, with tech giants Intel (INTC - Free Report) , IBM (IBM - Free Report) and Yahoo reporting after the close.

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