U.S. Stocks a Bit Friskier After Long Weekend

New York's major averages start the holiday-shortened week. Oil prices are dropping, and new housing data show less depressing new-home sales figures.
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Updated from 9:48 a.m. EDT

Stocks in the U.S. were climbing early Tuesday as traders cheered dropping oil prices and new data showing an increase in new-home sales.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 52 points to 12,532, and the

S&P 500

added 6 points to 1382. The

Nasdaq Composite

bounced 23 points at 2467.

Equity measures got a bump after the Commerce Department said sales of one-family homes in April jumped 3.3% -- from the prior month's downwardly revised figure -- to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000. That also represents an 42% drop from last year, but it's a bit better than the economists' consensus of 520,000. Also, the amount of time needed to clear through the current inventory is now estimated at 10.6 months, based on the current sales pace, down from 11 months in March.

Earlier, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller indicated that prices of U.S. homes tumbled 14.1% nationwide last quarter, a record decline for the 20-year-old index.

But investors appeared to be taking that in stride, together with the Conference Board's consumer-confidence numbers, which showed another decline to 57.2 in May from 62.8 in April -- worse than the measure of 60.0 sought by economists.

Traders were also digesting a

Financial Times

report that former

Federal Reserve

chairman Alan Greenspan believes the probability of a severe recession has "come down markedly," though he thinks there's a greater than 50% chance the U.S. will fall into some level of recession.

Also Tuesday morning, crude oil shed $2.50 to $129.69 a barrel, and gold futures were losing $19.60 to $906.20 an ounce. The U.S. dollar firmed by 0.3% against the euro at $1.5731 and tacked on 0.7% against the yen to 104.05.

On the companies side,

Infineon Technologies

(IFX)

announced after the German market closed Monday that CEO Wolfgang Ziebart

has resigned

"due to different opinions on the future strategic orientation of the company." The chip company said Peter Bauer, a member of the management board, will assume the role of spokesman for that body. Shares were falling 4.1%.

Also departing will be the chief of Britain-based

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

, which preliminarily announced that its full-year adjusted operating profit climbed 5.7% to $19.9 billion on a 14.1% jump in sales. CEO Arun Sarin will step down in July and be replaced by Vittorio Colao. The stock gave up 1.1%.

In the retail sector,

Borders Group

(BGP)

is due to report after the closing bell Tuesday.

Elsewhere, a Belgian business paper reported that

InBev

, a beer giant based in Belgium, could start merger negotiations with Budweiser purveyor

Anheuser-Busch

(BUD) - Get Report

as early as today. On Friday, the

Financial Times

said it was preparing a bid worth $46 billion, or $65 a share. Anheuser shares were ticking down in marginal retreat from Friday's big gains.

As for analyst actions, Bank of America and Bernstein each slashed second-quarter bottom-line estimates for

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

,

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

and

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

, with each analyst citing concerns about more writedowns. BofA cut Lehman's target, in particular, to a loss from a prior profit expectation.

Shares of all three brokerages were backing off in recent trading.

Also on Tuesday, Citigroup upped

American Axle

(AXL) - Get Report

to buy from hold after Friday's news that striking workers at the company had finally voted to accept an amended employment agreement and go back to work. The three-month strike had idled several

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

plants, as American Axle is one of GM's main parts suppliers.

GM, on the other hand, was cut to hold from buy at Citi. The automaker said Friday that the strike had cost it $1.8 billion before taxes in the second quarter. Axle shares moved up 3.3% as GM edged down 3 cents at $17.57.

Separately, KeyBanc Capital Markets upgraded oil-and-gas name

Newfield Exploration

(NFX)

to buy from hold, and

Knight Transportation

(KNX) - Get Report

was lifted to outperform at Wachovia. Shares were up 0.8% and 3.2%, respectively.

Treasury prices were falling. The 10-year note was off 15/32 in price to yield 3.90%, and the 30-year bond sank 31/32 in price, yielding 4.63%.

Foreign markets were mixed. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo bounced 1.5% overnight, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.6%. In Europe, the FTSE 100 rose 0.3% and Germany's Xetra Dax was better by 0.5%. The Paris Cac surrendered 0.2%.