If yesterday's lack of market movement was the calm before the storm, then this morning has turned out to be a sun shower. Boosted by strong retail sales data that topped expectations, all three of the major indexes are up. With the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meeting today, that may not remain the case, but for now this is how the indexes are faring.
Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI)
Source: Yahoo! Finance.
All three indexes are clearly performing well. The Dow is in third place with its 0.7% increase, but that was enough to boost it back over 13,000. The current top-performing index is the Nasdaq, up 0.8%, which also hit a significant milestone, surpassing the 3,000 watermark.
Retail sales came in at a 1.1% increase in February, 0.9% ex-auto, topping an expected 1% and 0.6% increase, respectively. This is further evidence that the U.S. consumer is coming back to life, although maybe not fast enough for hip retailer Urban Outfitters (NAS: URBN) , which is down 5% thanks to fourth-quarter earnings getting slashed in half. The company seems determined to grow its way out of its troubles after opening 57 new locations in 2011, but when steep sales are crushing profits, investors are left to wonder whether Urban's management is focused on the right things.
As mentioned earlier, the Federal Open Market Committee is meeting, and investors are holding out hope for a third round of quantitative easing to continue the bull market. However, recent comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke indicate it won't be coming soon, if at all. So, if anything, expect the Fed chairman to further back that, even if he softens the tone some to keep QE3 dreams alive and the market buoyant. Despite the likelihood of further easing, bank stocks are trading solidly up today, with both Dow components JPMorgan (NYS: JPM) and Bank of America (NYS: BAC) up 1.8% and the levered Direxion Financial Bull 3X (NYS: FAS) ETF up 3.5%. That could be residuals of retail sales showing a strengthening economy or a report that consumers are becoming more confident in the housing market.
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