Major U.S. stock averages rise Wednesday after encouraging U.S. data.



NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages were trading higher late Wednesday morning as investors cheered a larger-than-expected rise in pending home sales, an increase in durable goods numbers, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's reiteration of easy monetary policy at his second-day of testimony before Congress.

Investors were also focusing on Apple(:AAPL), whose annual shareholders' meeting is set to begin Wednesday at 12 p.m. EST. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, is likely to be asked what the iPhone maker plans to do with its massive cash hoard of more than $137 billion.

"We have some rumors about Apple and what they might do today at a meeting ... I'm going to focus on what we see in tech ... and if we really get a solid bounce and Apple stays above ... maybe there's some credence to the rumor," Matthew Cheslock, equity trader at Virtu Financial, told TheStreet late Tuesday, as the tech-heavy Nasdaq rebounded strongly along with Apple.

Apple shares were down 0.7% Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was rising 73.64 points, or 0.53%, at 13,973.The S&P 500 was rising 8.17 points, or 0.55%, at 1,505. The Nasdaq was up 18.55 points, or 0.59%, at 3,148.

Major U.S. stock averages rebounded Tuesday from the prior session's swoon after a raft of upbeat economic data and earnings reports, and after Bernanke indicated continued support for monetary easing in his semi-annual testimony before Congress.

Speaking before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, Bernanke said, though, that the Fed alone couldn't bear the entire burden of spurring the economic recovery, and urged lawmakers to find alternatives to the sequestration ahead of a March 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Bernanke was giving his semi-annual testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington. He reiterated his continued support for easy monetary policy and once again voiced his concerns about the looming spending cuts in Washington.

The Census Bureau reported that durable goods orders fell 5.2% in January after rising 3.7% in December. Excluding transportation, orders rose 1.9% after a 1% increase the prior month. Economists were expecting durable goods orders to fall 3.5% in January and the number to rise 0.2% excluding the transportation component.

The National Association of Realtors said that its pending home sales index rose 4.5% in January after falling 1.9% the previous month. Economists were forecasting a rise of 1%.

"Between this report and the upside surprises in the housing market data released yesterday (prices for December and new home sales for January), housing market activity appears to have ended 2012 on a positive note and is off to a strong start in 2013," said Cooper Howes, U.S, economist for Barclays.

Gold for April delivery was sliding $10 to $1,605.50 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were down 5 cents to $92.58 a barrel.



The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 9/32, diluting the yield to 1.857%. The dollar was falling 0.27%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Groupon(:GRPN), the daily deals site, is forecast to report fourth-quarter profit of 3 cents a share on sales of $638.4 million after the markets close. Shares were rising more than 2%.

Priceline.com(:PCLN), the travel Web site operator, said Tuesday that fourth-quarter net income rose 28%, as bookings on its Web sites jumped 33% to about $6.6 billion in the quarter. Shares were popping 2.75%.

Coach(:COH) shares were jumping more than 4.5% amid rumors that the luxury goods company is thinking about selling itself, and following its announcement of new appointments to its creative team, including Zach Augustine. Augustine joins Coach from Nike, where he held the role of global creative director.

First Solar(:FSLR), the solar panel manufacturer, swung to a profit in the fourth quarter but issued first-quarter net income and sales guidance below analysts' forecasts. Shares were plunging 16.5%.

Accretive Health (:AH), a provider of services to the health care industry, announced that it will postpone the release of its financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2012, as well as its previously announced investor conference call scheduled for Wednesday, because it is evaluating the timing of revenue recognition for its revenue cycle management agreements. Shares were plummeting nearly 26%.

Edison International(:EIX) booked better-than-expected quarterly earnings. Shares were rising more than 2%.

Target(:TGT) shares were falling more than 1% after the company reported that its fourth-quarter gross margin rate declined to 27.8% in 2012 from 28.4% in 2011.

DreamWorks Animation(:DWA) shares were falling more than 3% after the company reported a quarterly loss of $82.7 million, or 98 cents a share, including the impact of a write-down of film costs for "Rise of the Guardians" and charges related to the decision to return "Me & My Shadow" back to development.

Dollar Tree(:DLTR) shares were popping more than 12.5% after the discount store operator posted stronger-than-anticipated quarterly results as same-store sales increased 2.4%

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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