Dow clinging on to small gains

The major US stock index benchmarks were heading for a positive finish at the end of another challenging week that has been dominated by conjecture about the future of the Fed’s monetary stimulus.

In the last hour of trading on Wall Street for another week, the Dow was up by 0.18% or 26 points at 14,990, on the cusp of regaining the psychologically-significant level of 15,000. Other blue-chip indices advanced, with the S&P 500 gaining 0.32% to 1662.3 and the NASDAQ 100 rose 0.66% to 3122.1.

Worries about when the Fed will begin to wind down QE3 have played a significant part in the movement of the US stock markets this week, but two days on from the publication of the minutes from the most recent Fed meeting, the issue appears more uncertain if anything, especially after the release of data earlier today showing a huge drop in the number of new single-family homes being sold in July.

The Commerce Department revealed that new home sales fell 13.4% to an annualised rate of 394,000, much lower than expected and hitting a nine-month low. This is the biggest sign yet that rising mortgage rates are having an adverse effect on the housing market and weakens the case being made by hawks at the Fed for a reduction in stimulus next month.

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