Stocks trade mixed on conflicting reports on US economy

Stocks trade mixed on conflicting reports on US economy
FILE- In this Feb. 8, 2019, file photo specialist Peter Mazza, left, and trader James Lamb work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 26. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market shook off an early slump and was mixed in morning trading Tuesday as investors weighed conflicting reports on how the U.S. economy is doing.

Indexes slipped shortly after the opening bell after the government reported that number of homes being built last month plunged to the lowest level in more than two years, the latest sign that the housing market is cooling.

That downbeat report was countered by a subsequent survey from The Conference Board consumers were far more confident last month than economists had expected, reversing three months of declines.

Investors are also keeping a close eye on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who begins two days of congressional testimony on Tuesday. It’s his first appearance there since the Fed signaled in December that it would hold off on raising interest rates. Powell said he expects solid, but slower growth in 2019 and remains “patient” on raising rates.

Corporate earnings continued rolling out. Home improvement retailer Home Depot felt the brunt of a weakening housing market and fell after weak results in the fourth quarter. Auto parts retailer Autozone rose after reporting earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts.

Drugmakers will be in focus today as CEOs of several major pharmaceutical companies appear before Congress to discuss drug pricing. The leaders of AbbVie and AstraZeneca are among those appearing.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 37 points, or 0.2 percent, to 26,054 as of 10:15 a.m. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 indexes were little changed.

MANAGEMENT MAKEOVER: Macy’s will trim its management structure in a move that could save it million as it gears up for fiercer competition in the retail sector. The company also surged past Wall Street’s profit forecast for the quarter. The stock rose 1.5 percent.

The department store operator warned investors about a weak fourth quarter earlier this year because of soft holiday sales. Its competitors also faced a tough holiday sales season. The Commerce Department reported overall retail sales in December marked the biggest drop since September 2009.

HOME IMPROVEMENT RUT: A weak housing market helped slam the brakes on growth for home improvement retailer Home Depot. The stock fell 2.2 percent after a key sales measure fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. The company also expects weak sales this year.

The housing market initially cooled last year as average 30-year mortgage rates climbed to nearly 5 percent. Home prices have consistently risen faster than wages and the inventory of homes listed for ,000 or less is tight, suggesting a sluggish market going forward.

TESLA TUMBLES: Tesla fell 1.3 percent after the Securities and Exchange Commission said it wants the electric car company’s CEO held in contempt of a settlement agreement after he tweeted incorrectly last year that he had secured funding to take the company private.

On Feb. 19, CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company will make around 500,000 cars in 2019. He later corrected himself, but the initial figure didn’t match the company’s previous forecast. Musk is supposed to get approval from company officials before making any statements that could impact the stock price.