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Stocks gain after reports on housing, Ukraine

Published March 18, 2014 4:02 pm

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New York • The stock market rose Tuesday after some encouraging news on housing and on hopes that the conflict between Russia and the West wouldn't escalate further after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said that it won't take over other areas of Ukraine.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,873 as of 2:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 107 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,354. The Nasdaq composite climbed 52 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,332.

UKRAINE CRISIS: In a speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Russian Parliament not to believe those who say that Russia will look to take over other areas of Ukraine. On Sunday, a majority of voters in Ukraine's region of Crimea voted to break from that country and join Russia. Stocks fell last week as tensions rose between Russia and the U.S. and the European Union over the Ukraine.

"As long as Putin seems to be satisfied with what he has, that's the key," said Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist for U.S. Trust. "It gives the markets less to worry about in terms of an escalation of the crisis."

BOUNCE BACK: The stock market is recovering this week after logging its biggest weekly drop in almost two months. The S&P 500 has gained 1.7 percent so far this week after dropping almost 2 percent last week on concerns about slowing growth in China and tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

OFFICE ON iPAD: Microsoft jumped $1.47, or 4 percent, to $39.52 after Reuters reported that CEO Satya Nadella plans to use his first big press event to unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite. Analysts regard this as a first step for Nadella in repositioning Microsoft as a company that focuses on mobile devices rather than the shrinking market for personal computers.

SPEED UNDER SCRUTINY: Nasdaq OMX Group and IntercontinentalExchange Group slid following news that the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, was taking a closer look at services offered by stock exchanges to high-frequency traders. Schneiderman said that when exchanges allow trading firms to put their computers within the exchanges' data centers, it gives these firms an unfair advantage. Nasdaq OMX lost $1.14, or 3 percent, to $38.59. ICE lost $2.50, or 1 percent, to $206.66.

HOUSING: Home builders rose after the Commerce Department said that applications for building permits reached their highest level in four months. Beazer Homes USA rose 52 cents, or 3 percent, to $20.57 and Ryland Group rose $1.18, or 3 percent, to $41.35.

PRICE WATCH: The government reported that cheaper oil and gas kept U.S. consumer prices in check last month, despite a big rise in the cost of food. It was the latest sign of weak inflation. The Labor Department says the consumer price index increased 0.1 percent in February. In the past 12 months, prices have risen just 1.1 percent.

FED MEETING: The Federal Reserve will start its second meeting of the year on Tuesday. The meeting will end Wednesday and be followed by an early afternoon press conference by Fed Chair Janet Chairman. Most analysts expect the Fed to continue to reduce its economic stimulus by cutting back on its bond purchases.

GAME STOPPED: GameStop fell $1.45, or 4 percent, to $38.30 after Wal-Mart said it plans to let video game owners trade in used games in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in exchange for store credit, not cash. Previously they offered trade-ins on a more limited basis online.

BULLISH OUTLOOK: Hewlett-Packard rose $1.14, or 4 percent, to $30.61 after analysts at Barclays upgraded their outlook on the hardware company and raised their price target on the stock to $38 from $33. They expect HP to return more cash to shareholders and gain market share in the server business from rivals in coming months.

BONDS AND COMMODITIES: In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.68 percent. The price of oil rose $1.51, or 2 percent, to $99.59 a barrel. Gold fell $13.90, or 1 percent, to settle at $1,359 an ounce.