Stock Market Today: Housing and Japan Stimulus Carry Stocks

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The major headlines in the stock market today include: Japan extends its stimulus purchases, there's another sign the housing market is slowly improving, and watch out for this one stock that is taking a beating.

  • Japan makes it a crowd- The Bank of Japan has joined the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve in what has become a trio of new stimulus measures. The Bank of Japan decided to increase its asset purchases by 10 trillion yen ($126 billion) in hopes of energizing its struggling economy. All of these stimulus plans have helped bring the euro to a five-month high against the U.S. dollar, push gold to a seven-month high and boost all three major U.S. exchanges to multi-year highs. "The macro events are so large and meaningful coming out Europe, the U.S. and now Japan that they are like a large tide that is moving all boats," Lawrence Creatura, who helps oversee $356 billion as a fund manager at Federated Investors Inc. (NYSE: FII), told Bloomberg News.
  • Housing market continues slow improvement- Both housing starts and existing home sales maintained the recent upbeat trend in housing numbers. In August housing starts increased to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 750,000 units. This is a 2.3% increase from July and a 29.1% rise from the same period a year ago. Economists had expected 765,000 new units but the number is still a move in the right direction. "Another step forward on a very long staircase," John Tashjian, Principal, Centurion Real Estate Partners in New York told Reuters. "We continue to see positive signs emerging from the housing market, suggesting that the entire market, not just individual submarkets, are stabilizing and steadying themselves for future growth." Existing home sales jumped to two-year highs in August as record low interest rates continue to encourage buyers. Last month sales of previously owned homes rose 7.8% from July to a 4.82 million annual rate. The median existing home price gained 9.5% year-over-year to $187,400.

While stimulus and housing news are bullish for stocks, this healthcare-related pick is down about 40%…

  • Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOR) tumbles- Questcor stock is today's biggest loser after Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) disclosed that it will drop coverage for Questcor's only drug Achtar. The drug is used for treating multiple sclerosis and nephrotic syndrome. Starting last Friday, Sept. 14 Aetna has ceased to offer reimbursement for new patients to use HP Acthar Gel, except for the rare indication of infantile spasms. QCOR stock is down over 40% today.
  • General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) rises on strong earnings- Cereal maker General Mills reported better-than-expected first quarter earnings as sales gained in Europe and Canada. The Minneapolis-based company announced that net income rose 35% to $548.9 million, or 82 cents a share, from $405.6 million, or 61 cents, a year earlier. Excluding a tax benefit and other items profits were 66 cents a share, ahead of analysts' expectations for 62 cents. Revenue rose 5% to $4.05 billion but was slightly below forecasts of $4.08 billion. The company confirmed its full-year outlook, which calls for 2013 earnings of about $2.65 per share. GIS stock was up 1.6% in early trading.

The Dow Jones was up 25 points, or 0.18%, and the S&P 500 was up 2.02 points, or 0.14% in early trading.

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