NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock markets turned modestly higher late Tuesday morning after investors processed a batch of disappointing economic data to focus on a historically strong upcoming fourth quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial AverageI:DJI was up 0.17%, the S&P 500I:GSPC  was higher by 0.29%, and the NasdaqI:IXIC  rose 0.22%.

"Overall, somewhat disappointing economic data today coupled with the disappointing news out of Ford (F) - Get Report yesterday are probably going to lower 3Q earnings estimates," said Ryan Detrick, strategist at research firm See It Market. "Still, historically the fourth quarter is the strongest quarter so don't ignore that going forward."

Since 1950, the SPX has been up over 4% on average in the fourth quarter and higher 78% of the time, according to Detrick. 

In economic data on Tuesday, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to a lower-than-expected 86 this month, down from 93.4 in August. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for July rose by a slower-than-expected 6.7% from a year ago; it was the smallest yearly gain since November 2012.

The Chicago PMI also exhibited a slowdown, falling to a lower-than-forecast 60.5 in September from 64.3 in August.

In top corporate headlines Tuesday,eBay (EBAY) - Get Report jumped 7.17% on its plan to split off its PayPal business into an independent publicly traded company.

GoPro (GPRO) - Get Report gained more than 1% after a Citigroup analyst raised his price target on the wearable camera company to $94 from $70.

News Corp (NWSA) - Get Report  agreed to buy online real estate business Move Inc. (MOVE) for about $950 million. Move soared 36.89%. News Corp was down 0.42%.

Apple (AAPL) - Get Report said Tuesday the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would go on sale in China on Oct. 17. Apple received approval from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology after it promised never to install "backdoors" to give other governments access to users' information. The stock was up 0.58%.

Ford (F) - Get Report said Monday it expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from its previous guidance of $7 billion to $8 billion.

Morningstar downgraded Pimco Total Return Fund to "bronze" from "gold" following the departure of Bill Gross "because of the resulting uncertainty regarding outflows and the reshuffling of management responsibilities."

The United States Oil Fund (USO) - Get Report added 0.53% and the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) - Get Report fell 0.62%. 

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to a lower-than-expected 86 this month, down from 93.4 in August.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for July rose by a slower-than-expected 6.7% from a year ago. It was the smallest yearly gain since November 2012.

The Chicago PMI also exhibited a slowdown, falling to a lower-than-forecast 60.5 in September from 64.3 in August.

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-- By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse