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Jan. 28, 2013 at 2:04 PM
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Markets hold back Monday

NEW YORK, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes were mixed Monday in New York despite strong durable goods gains in December.

After a four-week winning streak, investors say a slowdown is overdue. The durable goods orders report also indicated growth in non-defense capital goods orders, a leading indicator. Markets held back, anyway.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 4.20 points or 0.03 percent to 13,891.78.

The Nasdaq composite of tech-oriented stocks gained 5.80 points or 0.28 percent to 3,155.51. The Standard and Poor's 500 index lost 1.88 points or 0.13 percent to 1,501.08.

The 10-year treasury note fell 6/32 to yield 1.977 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro fell to $1.345 from Friday's $1.3466. The dollar fell to 90.78 yen from Friday's 91.03 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.94 percent, 102.34 points, to 10,824.31.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 0.16 percent, 9.96 points, to 6,294.41.

Durable goods orders rose in December

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. durable goods orders rose 4.6 percent in December, the Commerce Department said Monday.

Orders have increased in seven of the past eight months, rising to $230.7 billion in the final month of the year.

Transportation orders provided most of the increase, going up 11.9 percent or $8.1 billion out of a total increase of $10 billion.

Shipments of durable goods rose 1.3 percent to $230.6 billion in December after going up 1.8 percent in November.

Inventories, however, slipped by $100 million to $374.5 billion after rising for 14 consecutive months.

Non-defense capital goods orders, a leading economic index, rose by 3.8 percent or $2.7 billion to $73.8 billion.

Capital goods orders represent manufacturing firms investing in production equipment, a sign that manufacturers believe production warrants further investment.

Japan: Fiscal 2013 growth forecast at 2.5P

TOKYO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The Japanese government Monday forecast 2.5 percent growth in fiscal 2013, citing an improving global economy and its own stimulus steps.

Speaking at a news conference, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari expressed confidence about achieving the growth target, as the $220 billion fiscal and monetary stimulus package is expected to begin producing results -- including boosting domestic demand -- during the remainder of this fiscal ending in March and next fiscal staring in April, Kyodo News reported.

At a separate news conference, Finance Minister Taro Aso said the higher forecast is possible as risks to the global economy recede.

Japan has been struggling for years due to chronic deflation or falling prices, which has pushed the country -- the world's third largest economy after the United States and China -- into another recession.

Its export-reliant economy also must fight a rising yen, as that makes its products more expensive. The country suffered a trade deficit of $78 billion in 2012, up 2.7 percent from 2011.

The new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made as its top priority the need to pull the country out of deflation and to boost exports. Its efforts have included urging the country's central bank to undertake aggressive monetary easing and doubling inflation target to 2 percent.

The government said Monday inflation is likely to hit 0.5 percent in fiscal 2013, the first such rise since fiscal 2008. It anticipates the U.S. dollar to average 87.8 yen in the next fiscal year from 81.9 yen in fiscal 2012.

A weaker yen, besides boosting exports, would also encourage business investments and create jobs.

Pending home sales slid in December

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Pending Home Sales Index dropped in December but remained in an upward long-term trend, a trade group in Washington said Monday.

The National Association of Realtors said the index, which tracks contracts of intention, dropped 4.3 percent from November to 101.7 from 106.3. The index, however, was 6.9 percent above December 2011, when the pending sales barometer was at 95.1.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the index, which as risen 20 consecutive months on an annual basis, was held back in December by limited supplies of cheaper homes.

"Supplies of homes costing less than $100,000 are tight in much of the country, especially in the West, so first-time buyers have fewer options," Yun said in a statement.

A seasonal upswing in inventories in the spring should allow for more contracts "but a seller's market may be developing," Yun said.

"Much of the West is already a seller's market for homes priced under a million dollars but conditions are much more balanced in the Northeast," he said.

The Pending Home Sales Index for the Northeast fell 5.4 percent from November to December to 78.8.

The index rose a marginal 0.9 percent in the Midwest to 104.8. In the South it fell 4.5 percent to 111.5 and in the West it dropped 8.2 percent to 101.

Of the four regions, however, only the index for the West is down on a 12-month basis. In the West, the index is off 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

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