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Thursday, October 18, 2012

US Stocks barely budge as earnings roll in (ext.CNN)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks closed little changed Wednesday, as investors took in new housing data and another batch of corporate earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average bounced along the breakeven, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 edged slightly higher.

"The most important thing we're looking at is earnings, and so far, so good, but we're not ringing the bell yet," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management.

"But we're also really encouraged by what looks like a true housing recovery, which is important to the consumer and bodes well for corporate profits."

Housing starts, which tally the number of new homes under construction, climbed 15% to an annual rate of 872,000 in September, according to the Census Bureau. That's the highest level in more than four years and better than what economists had expected. Building permits for future construction also rose to the highest level in more than four years.

Of the 37 S&P 500 companies that have reported third-quarter earnings, 23 have beat analysts' estimates, according to S&P Capital IQ. But they still forecast that overall S&P 500 earnings will decline 0.7% -- the slowest growth in three years.

European stocks closed higher Wednesday. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.7%, the DAX in Germany rose 0.3% and France's CAC 40 added 0.8%. Meanwhile, Spanish bonds climbed after Moody's Investors Service affirmed Spain's investment grade credit rating. 

Currencies and commodities: The dollar slipped against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for November delivery fell cents 20 cents to $91.89 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery gained $6.70 to $1,753 an ounce.

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