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Indecision, but no indigestion

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The major indexes are little changed since the 11:00 AM EST hour, and while today's economic data looked sour enough to give the most bullish of bulls some indigestion, that hasn't been the case as we approach the halfway point of today's trade.

If anything, the major indexes, which have been trading in a rather tight range, hint of a market that is just indecisive at this point and more focused on the events taking place in Iraq.

The Dow Industrials (INDU) 8,261 -0.23% has edged up from its lows of 8,215 from earlier this morning, but has not been able to make a push into positive territory by more than 1-point today. The "recovery" from this morning's low has seen breadth improve and slightly bullish at 16 to 14 after showing negative breadth of 24 to 6 at the 11:00 mark.

The broader S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) 874 holds at unchanged, as sector action remains mixed. Upside sectors at this hour have the CBOE Internet Index (INX.X) 103 +1.4% and S&P Retail Index (RLX.X) 282 +0.94% showing gains, while the Forest/Paper Index (FPP.X) 267 -2% is the only sector at this hour now showing a loss of greater than 1%. The construction index have moved up from their earlier lows after today's weaker than expected new home sales numbers for February (attributed mostly to winter weather in the Northeast and South) with the Dow Jones Home Construction Index (DJUSHB) 323 -0.9% and PHLX Housing Index (HGX) 219 -0.95% now lower by just under 1%.

Giving a boost to the retailing sector today is Sears (NYSE:S) $24.31 +13.3% after the company announced that it is evaluating the potential sale of its credit card business in order to create value for all investors and focus on it profitable core retail business. Sear's credit business manages the eight largest U.S. credit card portfolio with $30.8 billion in credit card receivables. Although the company says the business is highly profitable and continues to perform well, "we believe the tremendous value and earnings power of these assets are not reflected in today's market valuation of Sears," the company said.

Homebuilder Toll Brother (NYSE:TOL) $19.80 (unch) has recovered from a morning low of $19.22 after the company said its Board of Directors has increased its share buyback program to 10 million shares. Prior to today's announcement, the company said that 3.5 million shares remained available for purchase under a previously announced buyback plan. The 10 million share buyback program represents roughly 22% of the company's 44.5 million share float.

Not to be outdone, Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) $47.73 +0.31% announced a 100 million share buyback plan today, and reaffirmed 2003 guidance. A quick look at BUD's point and figure chart has the look of lower prices after a break of bullish trend in December at $47. The current bearish vertical count is $40.00. According to Dorsey/Wright and Associates, the stock is classified as being part of the "Foods Beverage/Soap" sector bullish % (BPFOOD), which is currently in "bear confirmed" status.

Jeff Bailey

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