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Stocks rising day before Thanksgiving holiday

10:22 AM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
The floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.(Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP)
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NEW YORK - Stocks were trading higher Wednesday on a positive employment number and an aggressive outlook from farm equipment maker Deere & Co., which reported its profit rose nearly 3% in the fourth quarter.

Investors are digesting a report from the Labor Department showing claims for jobless aid fell 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted 410,000 last week. But Superstorm Sandy continues to distort the figures and likely will do so for another week or so.

Two more reports out were neutral to investor sentiment in the near term:

• Consumer sentiment in November gained slightly to a reading of 82.7 but wasn't as strong as initially estimated, the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters said Wednesday. Initially, the index was reported at 84.9 in November from October's final 82.6 reading. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a downward adjustment to 84.0

• Beating expectations, the Conference Board said Wednesday that its leading economic indicators index rose 0.2% in October after a downwardly revised 0.5% gain in September. It suggests the economy will continue to grow modestly into early 2013.

The index is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to signal business cycle peaks and troughs. Four of the 10 indicators rose in October, led by the interest-rate spread (a measure of the difference between yields on short-term and long-term bonds).

Four indicators fell, with the biggest decline in building permits. Two indicators were unchanged. But the coincident indicators, which measure what's going on now, might be more important. The coincident index rose 0.1% in October, after a 0.2% in September and a 0.4% decline in August.

"The biggest problem in the economy is lack of demand," says Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. "Given that, indicators of business or consumer demand have more relevance." Among those:

• Average weekly manufacturing hours, which increase as demand for new products increase. The number has remained unchanged from August through October.

• The Institute for Supply Management's new orders index, up 1.9% in October.

• Building permits, new private housing units. Permits were authorized at an 866,000 annualized rate in October, down from September, but far above the record low of 513,000 in 2009.

The leading indicators give an idea of the future. But markets are focused on the economy now, which makes the Index of coincident Indicators so important.

"The good news is that through September, there's no indication the economy is running out of steam," Goldstein says. But he acknowledges there's no evidence it's picking up steam either.

USA Today

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