U.S. equity markets ended Tuesday’s trading session on an up note, boosted by strength in housing and consumer confidence data.
The S&P/Case-Shiller index showed home prices rose in December, while the Consumer Confidence Index gained in February compared with January’s decline. Also, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Tuesday that economic growth has picked up this year, despite high levels of unemployment and fiscal uncertainty in Washington.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the economy has continued to “expand at a moderate if somewhat uneven pace.”
“The pause in real GDP last quarter does not appear to reflect a stalling-out of the recovery,” Bernanke told the committee, as he delivered the Fed’s semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. “Rather, economic activity was temporarily restrained by weather-related disruptions and by transitory declines in a few volatile categories of spending, even as demand by U.S. households and businesses continued to expand.”
He said the recent increase in gasoline prices is “hitting family budgets,” although overall inflation remains low. The Fed is anticipating the overall inflation rate will run at or below its 2 percent target in the medium term.
Bernanke defended the Fed’s $85 billion bond-buying program aimed at keeping interest rates low to spur economic growth.
“Notably, keeping longer-term interest rates low has helped spark recovery in the housing market and led to increased sales and production of automobiles and other durable goods,” Bernanke said. “By raising employment and household wealth — for example through higher home prices — these developments have in turn supported consumer sentiment and spending.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8 percent to 13,900.13, while the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group increased 1.5 percent to 692.47.
Among the retailers that posted gains were Christopher & Banks Corp., up 5.8 percent to $6.04, and Zale Corp., which rose 5.7 percent to $4.11. Other gainers include Stage Stores Inc., up 4.9 percent to $24.08, and Tiffany & Co., rising 3.1 percent to $66.01.
Elsewhere the major global indices posted a down day in their trading sessions.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 2.3 percent to 11,398.81, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was down 1.3 percent to 22,519.69.
The FTSE MIB in Milan was down 4.9 percent to 15,552.20, while the CAC 40 in Paris sank 2.7 percent to 3,621.92. The DAX in Frankfurt fell 2.3 percent to 7,597.11, while the FTSE 100 in London retreated 1.3 percent to 6,270.44.
Italy’s two-day, parliamentary election ended with the center-left bloc winning the lower house, but failing to secure a majority in the Senate.
Control of both houses is needed to govern the country, which is mired in recession and pursuing a program of austerity measures. It is now up to the parties with the biggest majorities to form a coalition government, which will most likely be weak, or for the country to call a fresh round of elections.
Among the stocks that lost the most ground was Mulberry Group, which was down 3.4 percent to 13.52 pounds, following Panmure Gordon’s reiteration of its hold rating on the stock earlier this week.
PPR sank 2.8 percent to 166.95 euros; L’Oréal was down 2.4 percent to 111.95 euros; Inditex fell 2.5 percent to 101.05 euros; and Carrefour was down 2.6 percent to 20.30 euros.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
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To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye