March 27 - Summary of business headlines: Stocks drift lower; Consumer confidence and home price data suggest economy not losing strength; Supreme Court split on Obama healthcare. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street took a break as it marches towards the end of a strong first quarter. The day's data did little to shake faith in the overall economic recovery. Consumer confidence dipped in March due to the impact of higher gasoline prices. But The Conference Board says its number for February was stronger than first thought. Economists say spending could hold up if job growth continues. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of all economic growth. The housing market has not contributed to that growth, but there's new data to fuel optimism that may be changing. Home prices were flat in January on a seasonally-adjusted basis with December. That's the first time in six months prices did not decline. That read comes by way of the S&P/Case-Shiller index of 20 metro cities. A picture of a divided Supreme Court is emerging after day-two of legal arguments, challenging President Obama's healthcare law. The nine justices seem split along ideological lines. Their ruling on whether Obama's push to provide greater access to health care is constitutional or not is expected in late June. There's one more day of arguments. Back to the markets now, where a quiet day on Wall Street ended with a sell-off. European shares were down as well as investors await the next catalyst. Conway Gittens, Reuters