US stocks : Dow up 0.8 pct
Economic reports that showed strength in housing and consumer confidence also supported stocks. U.S. home prices rose more than expected in December, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. Consumer confidence rebounded in February, jumping more than expected, and new-home sales rose to their highest in 4-1/2 years in January.
However, the central bank chairman also urged lawmakers to avoid sharp spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday, which he warned could combine with earlier tax increases to create a "significant headwind" for the economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 115.96 points, or 0.84 percent, to 13,900.13 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 9.09 points, or 0.61 percent, to 1,496.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 13.40 points, or 0.43 percent, to close at 3,129.65.
Despite the bounce, the S&P 500 was unable to move back above 1,500, a closely watched level that was technical support until recently, but could now serve as a resistance point.
The CBOE Volatility Index or the VIX, a barometer of investor anxiety, dropped 11.2 percent, a day after surging 34 percent, its biggest percentage jump since Aug. 18, 2011.
The uncertainty caused by the Italian elections continued to weigh on stocks in Europe. The FTSEurofirst-300 index of top European shares closed down 1.4 percent. The benchmark Italian index tumbled 4.9 percent.
Home Depot gave the biggest boost to
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