Exchange traded funds (ETFs) and the broader markets don’t seem to know which way is up after a round of mixed economic reports.

There were some better-than-expected numbers on both housing and inflation, for starters. But dampening the mood were reports of a dividend cut at Alcoa (AA) and layoffs at Nokia (NOK) and Caterpillar (CAT).

Housing starts rose unexpectedly in February by 22.2% from January, reports Martin Crutsinger for the Associated Press. The housing market is at the center of the economic meltdown, so any stability within the sector is a welcome sign.

SPDR S&P Homebuilders (XHB) is up nearly 3% in midday trading.

The producer price index rose by 0.1% in February, vs. a 0.8% gain in January, reports Alister Bull for Reuters.

Investors continued to weigh the impact of OPEC’s moves this weekend to keep the supply of oil as it is for now, reports George Jahn for the Associated Press. Oil is up above $48 a barrel in midday trading. United States Oil (USO) is up more than 3% midday.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.