Stocks Gain Before the Close
The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that existing-home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.99 million in November, but still well above year-ago levels. The upward momentum in home prices continued amid limited inventory, according to the NAR.
Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected existing-home sales to rise to an annual rate of 5.1 million units in December.
"Overall, this report points to some modest relapse in what has otherwise been a steady rebound in housing market activity since the summer months, and the drop in sales may have been due in part to the impact of elevated concerns at the time about the impact of the fiscal cliff," said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities. "Given this, we anticipate that sales activity could rebound in January following the tax deal, given the very supportive buying conditions and the increasing incentive for first-time buyers (who are currently sitting on the fence) to slowly move into the market as prices begin to firm."
The Chicago Federal Reserve's National Activity Index on Tuesday showed a decrease to 0.02 in December from 0.27 in November, indicating a moderation of economic growth last month.
The report also suggested subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up by 0.29%, and the Nikkei in Japan finished down 0.35% after the Bank of Japan introduced a widely expected open-ended asset purchase program and set a 2% inflation target.
Geoffrey Yu and Gareth Berry, research analysts at UBS, said that to them the additional easing announced "does not seem commensurate with the challenge ... disappointingly, the BoJ announced its intention to buy only JPY10 trillion worth of assets throughout the whole of 2014. That's over three times slower than the current pace of asset accumulation -- totally inadequate in our view given the enormity of the challenge of generating 2% inflation."
European markets were weak after Monday's advances, though pared losses after a better-than-expected ZEW economic sentiment reading from Germany and Spanish debt auction results. The FTSE closed down 0.03% and the DAX in Germany finished off 0.68%.
Gold for February delivery rose $6.20 to settle at $1,693.20 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March crude oil futures added 64 cents to close at $96.68.