The China bears tried their best to hold the markets back.
First the scoreboard:
And now the top stories:
- The tone for today's U.S. trading session was set overnight during the Australian trading session. At the AJM Global Iron Ore & Steel Forecast conference, BHP Billiton's Ian Ashby warned attendees that China's demand for iron ore was flattening. Rio Tinto also shared that sentiment. The China bears were only emboldened when Chinese policymakers announced they would raise the country's gasoline and diesel prices. Here Are The Key Slides From BHP Billiton's Presentation >
- The luxury consumer, however, seems to be healthy. Jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. announced Q4 earnings that fell short of expectations. But management reported sales growth across North America, Asia, and even Europe. Investors were particularly pleased by management's 2012 guidance which called for 10 percent growth in sales and EPS of $3.95 to $4.05. Analysts were only looking for $3.64 per share. TIF was by far the top stock in the S&P 500.
- Also announcing quarterly earnings before the bell was Jefferies Group. Although, it is one of the smaller investment banks on Wall Street, it is widely accepted as a harbinger of things to come for the rest of Wall Street's earnings. And to the relief of many, Jefferies announced quarterly results that beat expectations driven growth in investment banking and fixed income. This helped lift the entire U.S. financial sector. Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs were all leaders today.
- February housing starts came in at 698k on an annualized basis, which just barely missed economists' estimate of 700k. But on the brighter side, January housing starts were revised up to 706k from an initial read of 699k. Also encouraging was building permits, which jumped 5.1 percent versus an expected increase of 0.6 percent.
- Stock markets continue to trade on painfully low volume. RBC put out a note today that pointed out that volume on a dollar basis had actually been flat since 2009. But there might still be more cash on the sidelines. In today's Cashin's Comments, Art Cashin noted that all the cash generated from the Treasury market sell-off has not entered the stock market.
- Don't Miss: Check Out Ben Bernanke's Presentation Explaining The Origins And Mission Of The Federal Reserve >
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