U.S. stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are barely snapping a two-day losing streak to jump into positive territory as investors become a bit more optimistic that the economy is emerging from the recession.
Encouraging news from the Commerce Department about home construction added to this optimism. Construction of new homes and apartments jumped 17.2% in May to a seasonally adjusted 532,000 units, surpassing economist’s forecasts and posting the largest jump in the last three months. To add icing to the cake, applications for building permits, a good indicator for future activity, rose 4% in May to an annual rate of 518,000 units. This news sent the SPDR S&P Homebuilders (XHB) up nearly 0.7% in morning trading. It’s down 1.3% year-to-date.

More positive news came from the Labor Department, which released a report indicating that wholesale prices rose less than expected in May as a large jump in the price in gasoline offset a drop in food prices. The Producer Price Index, or PPI, rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.2% from April, much lower than the 0.6% anticipated by analysts. This news put a little ease on inflation worries.

On the negative side, the Federal Reserve released a report indicating that industrial production, which includes production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities, has tumbled by a larger than expected 1.1%, marking a seventh straight month of declines. Additionally, industrial companies idled more of their plants and equipment, resulting in an overall operating rate of 68.3%, a record low since 1967, reports Jeannine Aversa of the Associated Press. Despite the discouraging news, the Industrials Select SPDR (XLI) gained nearly 0.4% in morning trading. It’s down 1.5% year-to-date.

Consumer electronics giant Best Buy (BBY) released its first-quarter earnings and beat Wall Street’s expectations.  The company reported earnings of $0.42/share, much higher than the $0.34/share forecast by analysts.  Additionally, the company remains optimistic about the future and maintained its yearly earnings forecast.  Despite the outperformance, shares of Best Buy traded down in morning trading and the Retail HOLDRs (RTH) dropped 0.8% in morning trading; BBT is 4.2%. It’s up 4.2% year-to-date.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.2%, the S&P 500 added 0.4% and the Nasdsaq gained 0.7% in morning trading.

For more mews on the retail and consumer sector, visit our related category.

Kevin Grewal contributed to this article.

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.