Mixed Messages Send Markets Sideways


It's been an up and down day on Wall Street as traders can't seem to find a good reason to send stocks significantly higher or lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) is up a microscopic 0.01% near the end of trading, and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is down 0.22%. The economic news was mixed today, so there wasn't anything for either bulls or bears to grab on to.

The National Association of Home Builders-Wells Fargo homebuilder sentiment index was released today, and it showed homebuilder confidence at a six-year high. Builders are seeing sales levels not seen since July 2006, and prospective buyers are back at levels not seen since May 2006. The housing market has been in a state of flux for six years now, but confidence is slowly returning to the market, which should be a great sign for the economy.

You might think that a stronger housing sector would be good for banks and raw-material suppliers, but they're leading the Dow decliners today. Bank of America (NYS: BAC) and Alcoa (NYS: AA) have both fallen more than 1% as the hangover of the QE3 pop they saw last week leaves investors in selling mode. In the long term, a stronger economy and housing sector should be a positive, so I wouldn't look at today's oversized drop as anything more than a reaction from the recent run-up.

FedEx (NYS: FDX) had a different take on the economy's state, lowering profit forecasts and raising concern that an economic slowdown will impact demand.

Oil continued a decline that started with a sharp sell-off yesterday. A barrel of oil fell 1.4% to $95.31 in late trading as investors look toward a Department of Energy inventory report on Wednesday. Supply is expected to increase in part due to Hurricane Isaac hitting the Gulf of Mexico.

There are a lot of questions about the direction of the economy, and with markets moving sideways it's wise to stick with dividend stocks that will pay you even when conditions get rough. We've highlighted three such stocks for every investor. Find out what they are in our free report found here.

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