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The Markets Now: S&P 500 Nears Record as Home Prices Rise, Consumer Confidence Falls


Plus, Monsanto resolves dispute with DuPont.

The Conference Board reported that the Consumer Confidence Index dropped from 68.0 in February to 59.7 in March. The Present Situation Index fell 61.4 to 57.9, and the Expectations Index declined from 72.4 to 60.9. The Conference Board cited fears concerning economic outlook tied to the sequester as a main cause for the sharp decline. Individuals describing business conditions as "good" dropped from 17.6% to 16%, and the individuals describing business conditions as "bad" ticked up from 28.2% to 29.3%. The Conference Board surveys three thousand households across the US on current business and employment perceptions along with their six-month perceptions on business conditions, employment, and income.

The International Council of Shopping Centers, or ICSC, reported today that the ICSC-Goldman same-store sales index decreased 1.7% week-over-week for the week ending March 23. The ICSC stated average temperatures 15 degrees below last year's averages caused people to hold off on spring shopping. Year-over-year, the index has increased 1%, the lowest level of the recovery. The index measures comparable store sales at major retail chains, accounting for 10% of total retail sales.

Redbook Research reported today that the Johnson Redbook Index increased 2.6% year-over-year for the week ending March 23. Conflicting with the ICSC report, Redbook stated that consumers stocked up on spring goods. The index measures sales at chain stores, discounters, and department stores, which accounts for 10% of total retail sales.

State Street Global Markets reported today that its State Street Confidence Index fell from 94.8 in February to 88 in March. Lower demand for equities and higher demand for fixed income products dragged down the index. State Street constructs the index based on actual levels of risk in investment portfolios of institutional investors. Increased holdings of equities signals more confidence.

Today, the US Treasury auctioned $45 billion worth of 4-week Treasury bills with a rate of 0.075% and a bid-to-cover ratio of 4.10, the lowest of the quarter.

Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) rose 3.80% to $103.18. Monsanto has settled its lawsuit with DuPont (NYSE:DFT) over the rights to technology for genetically modified seeds. Both companies will drop antitrust and patent claims. Also, rather than paying Monsanto $1 billion, DuPont will pay $1.75 billion over several years for use of Monsanto's genetic technology.

Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) increased 2.55% to $47.37. Yesterday, the drug store launched its second "Well Experience" flagship store in the Empire State Building in New York City.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) fell 1.13% to $12.26. The bank launched services today for financial institution clients to help them comply with the new requirements established by Dodd-Frank Remittance Regulation 1073 for cross-border payments.

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) dropped 1.31% to $14.98. Lisa DeStefano-Orebaugh left the retail chain as its vice president of strategic marketing to become vice president of marketing and brand management at Home Depot (NYSE:HD), making her the third high-profile executive to leave the company in 10 months.

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) dropped 2.96% to $27.19. JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) dragged down the solar energy industry after reporting its fourth-quarter loss increased because of weak global demand for solar products.
Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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