Stock Market Today: Europe Waits as Housing Rebounds

The stock market today (Wednesday) climbed slightly this morning as investors waited on the much anticipated European Union summit to begin.

The two-day meeting, which involves the leaders of all 27 EU nations, starts Thursday and many are hoping for signs of deeper integration and building blocks for a new foundation of EU policies.

"What is at stake is not only the economic integration, it is also the overall economic confidence in the euro area, and indeed, our commitment to the European project," said European Commission President Jose Barroso, in a speech Tuesday. "This is why we need to be bold and define the way forward."

After Cyprus became the fifth country to seek a bailout following Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, investors have become more and more pessimistic as to what can be accomplished at the summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stiffly opposed the idea of common Eurozone bonds proposed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and preferred by Spain and France as well.

At a meeting of lawmakers from her Free Democratic coalition partners in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel made her opinion clear.

"I don't see total debt liability as long as I live," said Merkel, a day after calling the idea of euro bonds "economically wrong and counterproductive," according to people who attended the closed-door session.

As investors awaited the summit, economic reports on durable goods orders and pending home sales spurred the markets forward today.

Orders for durable goods climbed 1.1%, the first rise in three months and far ahead of economists' expectations of a 0.5% increase. Pending home sales matched a two-year high.

The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 5.9% to 101.1. The index level matched the two-year high reached in March, while the gain was the largest since October 2011.

These reports could keep the momentum going for a housing recovery, following positive home prices and new home sales reports earlier this week.

Beyond Europe and housing, here are some companies making headlines in the stock market today.

Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) stock can now receive opinions and analysis for the first time since its IPO from the 33 underwriters who handled the offering, as the "quiet period" ends today. This period is a 40-day timeframe following an IPO that prohibits the firms involved to publish recommendations.

So far there are mixed reports from many of the larger firms.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) initiated its coverage with a "Buy" rating and a $42 price target for the next twelve months, Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE: RY) offered an "Overweight" rating and a $40 price target, and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) also offered an "Overweight" rating and a $38 target equal to the IPO price.

On the less positive side were Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and Citigroup (NYSE: C), who both offered a "Neutral" weighting and price targets of $38 and $35, respectively.

Editor's Note: Estimates too high: To see what Facebook stock is really worth, [ppopup id="70925"]Click here[/ppopup].

As of noon Facebook stock was down almost 1%.

Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) reported better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter earnings before Wednesday's opening bell, citing corn sales as the main factor. The world's largest seed company reported that net income climbed 35% to $937 million, or $1.74 cents a share, in the three months through May 31, from $692 million, or $1.28, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected $1.60 earnings per share after the company forecast profit of $1.57 to $1.62 on May 30.

In what was the biggest crop planted in 75 years by U.S. farmers, Monsanto saw corn sales and genetic licenses rise 35%. Monsanto kept its 2012 fiscal-year guidance level at $3.65 to $3.70 a share and expects earnings for fiscal 2013, which begins in September for the company, to grow at a level in the mid-teens.

"Corn is clearly the driver now," Chris L. Shaw, a New York-based analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. who recommends holding the shares, told Bloomberg News in a phone interview. "It was strong across the board, and they maintained their guidance for next year."

As of noon Monsanto shares were up almost 3%.

General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) reported that its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 1.6% from the same period a year ago but issued lower guidance for 2013.

Citing high commodity costs and the recently acquired Yoplait yogurt brand as a main factor for the lower guidance, General Mills now expects to earn $2.65 a share for 2013 and expects sales growth in the "mid-single digit range." Analysts had previously expected earnings of $2.75 per share.

In some good news for shareholders, General Mills raised its dividend by 8% on Tuesday bringing its dividend yield above 3.5%. As of noon the stock was down 2% following the lower guidance.

The Dow Jones today was up 85 points, or 0.68% by noon and the S&P 500 was up 11.60 points or 0.88%.

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