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Midday Market Report: Consumer Confidence Dips, Stocks Barely Budge

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Consumers are still concerned about gasoline prices, but Americans are not as afraid to spend as they were last year.

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US consumer confidence data weighed down on stocks on both sides of the Atlantic today.

The Conference Board's data released this morning showed that the survey-based Consumer Confidence Index fell to 70.2 in March. February's reading was revised up to 71.6. Though the index is down, it is still holding near the highest it has been in a year, and much higher than the dismal mid-20s that it hovered around in early 2009. The higher gasoline prices at the pump have weighed down on consumers' perceptions of the economy, but with unemployment declining, more consumers are still looking forward to big-ticket purchases.

The S&P/Case-Shiller property value index showed that housing prices in January fell by 3.8% since the year earlier. This decline comes right in line with economists' expectations. The index, which tracks home prices in 20 US cities, fell 0.2 percentage points faster in December.

European markets closed lower after the release of the data.
  • The Eurostoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) fell 0.58% to 2,525.21.
  • The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 0.56% to 5,869.55.
  • Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) was unchanged at 7,078.90.
US equities are flat at midday.
  • The Dow (^DJI) fell 0.02% to 13,238.76.
  • The S&P 500 (SPY) rose 0.04% to 1,417.13.
  • The Nasdaq (^IXIC) declined 0.17% to 3,130.27.

Walgreen Co. (WAG), the largest drugstore chain in America, is up 1% after reporting better-than-expected earnings this morning. Gains in merchandise revenue offset a decrease in pharmacy sales as Walgreens stopped using Express Scripts (ESRX) after the end of a contract with the prescription network. Walgreens said the mild weather also worked against earnings, as the company administered almost 1 million fewer shots this flu season than last.

Lennar Corp. (LEN), a major American homebuilder, rallied 5% after reporting that profits fell less than expected.

Total (TOT), the France-based oil and gas company, slipped 6% today while the company struggles to contain a disastrous leak at an offshore gas drilling rig in the North Sea.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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