March 26 - Pending home sales took a surprise dive and gas prices keep rising, but hints from Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke that he’s not ready to end stimulating the economy helped push stocks sharply higher. Jeanne Yurman reports.
The U.S. real estate market is still trying to find its footing. Pending home sales fell a half a percent in February from the prior month. Economists were expecting a one percent jump. Many say the surprise drop suggests a weak start to the spring selling season. And visits to the pump are getting a bit more painful. The price of gas rose over 11 cents in the past two weeks pushing the national average to $3.93 according to the latest Lundberg survey. Those reports did not deter investors, who were focused on remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Many think his wait-and-see tone about recent job gains hint at a third major push to boost the economy. SOUNDBITE: FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We might begin to see the improvements in the labor market leading to a more self sustaining recovery, which would be highly desirable. At the same time we haven't really seen that in a persuasive way yet and I think it remains important for us to remain cautious and to see how the economy develops." And the fate of President Obama's sweeping healthcare plan will likely move forward at the U.S. Supreme Court. In day one of three days of oral arguments U.S. justices cast doubt that an 1867 law would delay a ruling of the plan's legality. Meanwhile, "The Hunger Games" happily satisfied moviegoers. The dystopian flick pulled in $214 million worldwide in its box office debut. Its domestic receipts marked a record for a non-sequel. Taking a look at the markets... There were healthy gains in the U.S. - And in Europe. Stocks moved higher after a surprise jump in a reading of business sentiment in Germany, Europe's largest economy. Jeanne Yurman, Reuters.