12:15 PM New York – Financial markets advanced and major indexes flirted near new highs. Factory orders increased 3% in February and auto sales in March were ahead of expectations. Nasdaq OMX Group agreed to acquire the bond trading platform eSpeed for $1.23 billion.
Stocks in New York traded higher after European markets advanced and domestic auto sales were ahead of expectations.
Market indexes flirted with new highs and the S&P 500 index gained 0.7% or 10.7 to 1,573 and the narrow index of 30 stocks Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.7% or 94.9 to 14,668,
Factory Orders Rise 3%
Factory orders increased 3% in February after revised declined of 1% in January, according to the data released by the Commerce Department.
The orders increased on the 5.6% surge in demand for durable goods orders and record auto sales and rising home construction.
Volatile commercial aircraft orders soared 95.1% in the month after declining 23.8% in January.
Auto Sales Advance to Record High
Americans bought more cars in March as most automakers reported record auto sales in the moth.
Chrysler sales increased 5% and Ford sales rose 5.7% and GM sales increased 6.4%.
Record High Unemployment in Euro Zone
Unemployment rate in the euro zone increased to 12% in February and was revised to the same from 11.9%, according to the latest data released by the Eurostat.
A total of 19 million people were looking work in the euro zone, 2 million more than a year ago month. The euro zone is made up of more than 330 million people.
Jobless rate in the European Union rose to 10.9% from 10.8% with more than 26 million people out of work. Unemployment rate in Germany was held at 5.4%.
In the month, 33,000 additional jobs were lost, the slowest monthly increase since April 2011 and significantly smaller increase than 222,000 in January.
The euro zone economy is expected to shrink 0.3% in 2013, according to the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation block of European Union.
Stocks in Review
Healthcare stocks advanced after the government announced rates that were better than expected for the operators of Medicare Advantage plans.
Initially, the government had sought a decrease of 2.3% in the payment but rates were revised to increase as much as 3.3% after intense lobbying from the industry.
UnitedHealth Group (UNH
) increased 6%, Humana (HUM
) gained 7%, Aetna (AET
) and Cigna (CI
) added 4% and WellPoint (WEP
) increased 3%.