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Midday Market Report: New Home Sales Fall, Oil Bounces Back

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Stocks are sluggish today after US new home sales disappointed investors. Oil stocks are reaping the benefits of oil's rebound.

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Weak new home sales in the US dashed hopes of a housing recovery anytime soon, keeping stocks muted.

European stocks had their worst week so far this year, ending Friday mixed. Banks, not long after the European Central Bank's liquidity injection, suffered the steepest losses.
  • The Eurostoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) fell 0.21% to 2,524.91.
  • The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 0.26% to 5,860.82.
  • Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.24% to 6,998.22.
New home sales fell for the second straight month in February, as new construction competes with a surplus of existing properties, including foreclosures. Sales of new homes declined 1.6% to an annualized rate of 313,000. Economists predicted a rate of 325,000. January's rate was also revised down from 321,000 to 318,000.

US indices fell in the morning and are mixed at midday.
  • The Dow (^DJI) rose 0.20% to 13,072.74.
  • The S&P 500 (SPY) rose 0.19% to 1,395.39.
  • The Nasdaq (^IXIC) declined 0.17% to 3,058.02.
Oil prices recovered from yesterday's sell-off as Iran said that it will be scaling back production by 300,000 barrels per day, less than the Saudis can increase their own production. WTI futures rose 1.68% to $107.12/barrel and Brent rose 1.59% to $125.10. Energy stocks got a windfall from the steep rise in prices. Petroleum Development Corp. (PETD) gained 5%. Occidental Petroleum (OXY) rose 1.68%. ConocoPhillips (COP) rose 1.21%.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether high-frequency trading firms such as BATS Global Markets (BATS) have an unfair advantage over other firms thanks to their close links to computerized exchanges. High-frequency trading software exploits tiny price discrepancies across markets, getting into and out of trades in a less than a second in some cases. A glitch in these systems caused the Flash Crash of 2010, but these systems provide tremendous liquidity to markets. BATS made its IPO debut today, and it couldn't have picked a less auspicious day for it. Shares plummeted below the IPO price. Trading was halted and BATS will re-IPO soon.

President Barack Obama nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to succeed Robert Zoellick as the next head of the World Bank. The World Bank has never been headed by a non-American.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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