Stocks Close Mixed as Housing, Bernanke Dent Sentiment
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks finished mixed Wednesday after a disappointing read on the housing market and bearish comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Europe.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average , down three times in four sessions, fell by 45.6 points, 0.35%, at 13,125. About half of all blue-chip components traded in positive territory, led by Coca-Cola(KO) , Home Depot (HD) and American Express (AXP) . The biggest intraday laggards included Hewlett-Packard(HPQ) , Alcoa(AA) and Caterpillar(CAT) .
"I'm always surprised at how sticky the market can be to the upside. ," said James "Rev Shark" DePorre, founder and CEO of Shark Asset Management. "Despite lots of good reasons, both fundamental and technical, for a little weakness we just don't pull back very much."
DePorre added that he is keeping a short time frame given the unpredictability of current market conditions. "I try to avoid the being sucked into the constant top-calling and stay focused on finding new things to buy that might run for a day or two," he said.
Investors got another read on the housing market with a report from the National Association of Realtors showing that February existing-home sales declined from an upwardly revised January pace. However sales are well above year ago levels. Total existing-home sales slipped 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January, but were 8.8% higher than the 4.22 million-unit level reported the same time last year. Economist surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected existing-home sales would increase to an annual rate of 4.62 million in February from the originally reported 4.57 million the preceding month.
Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that mortgage applications on a seasonally adjusted basis fell 7.4% in the U.S. last week from one week earlier as interest rates climbed and discouraged many borrowers from refinancing their homes. The seasonally adjusted four-week moving average for mortgage applications was down 2.79%.
A downbeat assessment on Europe by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in the morning reminded investors that the U.S. was still vulnerable to an external shock. He also cautioned today that higher energy prices could curb short-term growth in the country.
Before the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bernanke said that that U.S. banks and money market funds could get hurt by a bad turn in Europe's debt crisis. He noted that although U.S. banks have limited exposure to peripheral European countries, their exposure to European banks and the larger, "core" countries of Europe are "more material."