Stocks revive on earnings, home prices

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NEW YORK -- The stock market bounced back Tuesday following a surge in U.S. home prices and signs of recovery in Europe's economy. Strong earnings reports also helped power the gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day 99.22 points higher at 13,979.30, erasing a large part of its loss from Monday. The index traded above 14,000 during the day before falling back in the last hour.

The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 15.59 points to 1,511.29. The Nasdaq composite was up 40.41 points to 3,171.58.

The rise follows two days of whiplash. On Monday, the Dow dropped 129 points; on Friday, the index gained 149.

After strong gains for stocks this year, investors are wondering whether they should sell now, or wait and see if the rally still has legs, said Brad Reynolds, chief investment officer at LJPR, Inc.

"The market is extremely skittish right now, that's why we're seeing such big moves," Mr. Reynolds said.

Tuesday's advance was driven by new data showing that U.S. home prices rose in December at the fastest pace in more than six years. CoreLogic, a real estate data provider, reported that home prices rose 8.3 percent. In Europe, a measure of manufacturing and service businesses rose to a 10-month high January.

Estee Lauder rose $3.66, or 6 percent, to $64.71 after reporting earnings that beat analysts' expectations. Profits surged 13 percent at the beauty products company as sales in the U.S. and emerging markets rose. Computer Sciences Corp., an information technology services company, was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500. CSC rose $3.84, or 9.2 percent, to $45.75 after the company said it was raising its earnings outlook for the year because its cost-cutting efforts were yielding better results than it had expected.

Stocks have gotten off to a strong start this year.

Lance Roberts, chief economist at Streettalk Advisors in Houston, said that's related more to the Federal Reserve's commitment to keep money cheap than to companies' performance. If earnings are beating estimates, he said, it's largely because expectations were so low.

"If you lower the hurdles enough, companies can get over them," Mr. Roberts said.

The fact that individual investors are starting to return to stocks, as they have in recent weeks, is another sign that the market is due for a correction, Mr. Roberts and other analysts have said.

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