Dow average returns to 5-year high as euro, Italian bonds rally

Housing Data

The index of pending home resales increased 4.5 percent to 105.9, the highest level since April 2010, after a revised 1.9 percent drop the prior month, a report from the National Association of Realtors showed. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 1.9 percent advance.

Bernanke also said the central bank’s easing policies are helping to improve demand for homes and cars, and that the housing market is recovering. He was continuing his semi-annual testimony to Congress after speaking yesterday in the Senate.

Increases in some interest rates have risen in recent months indicates the Fed’s stimulus is working, Bernanke said. The rate on a fixed 30-year mortgage climbed to 3.56 percent in the week ended Feb. 21 from a low of 3.31 percent on Nov. 22, according to data from Freddie Mac.

“The fact that interest rates have gone up a bit is actually indicative of a stronger economy,” Bernanke said.

European Movers

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.9 percent. European companies from Bouygues SA, France’s second-largest builder, to European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. reported earnings that beat estimates.

Bouygues rallied 13 percent, the most in 18 months, after forecasting margins will widen this year. EADS, the parent of Airbus, climbed 6.5 percent after predicting earnings will rise in 2013. Swiss Life Holding AG surged 8.7 percent as Switzerland’s biggest life insurer maintained its dividend and reported a narrower-than-estimated loss.

Vodafone Group Plc advanced 2 percent as three people familiar with the matter said the mobile-phone company has put plans to approach Kabel Deutschland Holding AG about a takeover on hold. Kabel Deutschland slid 3.7 percent.

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