NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks turned higher by mid-morning Monday as investors digested data that showed conflicting viewpoints on the health of the U.S. economy.
The S&P 500 rose 0.12%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.09%, while the Nasdaq added 0.25%.
On the one hand, homebuilder confidence hit its highest level in almost 10 years. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index increased to 61 from 60 in August, its best reading since November 2005. Economists had expected a reading of 59.
On the other hand, manufacturing in the New York area fell to its worst levels since the recession. The Empire State general business conditions index fell to negative 14.9 in August from positive 3.9, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Economists had expected a positive 4.5 reading. New orders fell to negative 15.7 from negative 3.5.
"A drop as big as this does suggest that the dollar's appreciation and/or the slowdown in global economic growth is having a more marked impact on the manufacturing sector than previously thought. But these regional manufacturing surveys are notoriously volatile," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "We would be cautious about reading too much into this collapse until it is verified by a corresponding decline in either the Philly Fed index ... or the Markit manufacturing PMI."
U.S. stocks were pressured last week with concerns ranging from an unexpected devaluation of the Chinese currency to economic indicators pointing to the possibility the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in September.
Adding to macro concerns, Japan's economy shrank in its second quarter, its first decline since the third quarter of last year. The Japanese economy contracted 0.4%, weighed down by a 0.8% decline in private consumption. The reading was still better than a 0.5% decline economists had expected.
Greece's future was looking uncertain again after International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde voiced concerns over the sustainability of its debt. "Greece cannot restore debt sustainability solely through actions on its own," Lagarde said in a statement, noting that creditors should consider a debt haircut. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a write-off was not a possibility, though she might consider extending debt maturities or adjusting rates.
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) shares were on watch following reports that, like Google (GOOGL - Get Report) , the company is working on a self-driving car. The company is reportedly seeking test centers in San Francisco as it works on what has been called "Project Titan," according to The Guardian.
In other Apple news, Greenlight Capital reduced its holdings of the tech giant to 7.38 million shares from 7.44 million in the second quarter. The fund, led by billionaire investor David Einhorn, also increased its stake in General Motors (GM - Get Report) to 14.6 million shares from 9.5 million.
Estee Lauder (EL - Get Report) shares were on watch after the company reported a mixed quarter. The makeup company reported net sales up 7% on a constant currency basis in its fourth quarter, though total sales fell 7.7% due to currency exchange. Skin care revenue fell 16% to $1.01 billion, while makeup sales slid 4% to $1.02 billion. The company expects net sales up 13% to 14% on a constant currency basis in its current quarter.
Tesla (TSLA - Get Report) added more than 3% after Morgan Stanley boosted its price target by 66% to $465. Analysts wrote that the company's focus on streamlining operations would likely fuel increased share prices.
General Electric (GE - Get Report) is expected to gain approval from the European Union for its 12.4 billion euro ($13.7 billion) acquisition of Alstom's power unit, according to Reuters. The deal has been held up on antitrust concerns.
Target (TGT - Get Report) has reshuffled its C-suite executives, promoting current Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan to the role of chief operating officer, effective Sept. 1. Cathy Smith will replace Mulligan as the company's new chief financial officer.