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Stocks Flying High After Confidence Boost

Stocks started the day higher Tuesday after an encouraging report on home prices, then soared even higher following an unexpected jump in consumer confidence.

This came after major averagese finished little changed on Monday, snapping a four-day rally. The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to eke out a three-point gain for its fifth straight winning session, but the Nasdaq index and S&P 500 index finished the day barely lower.

The Conference Board reported its gauge of consumer confidence jumped to 54.1 in August from an upwardly revised 47.4 in July. Economists had expected a milder uptick to 47.5, according to a Reuters survey.

Home prices rose 1.4 percentin June from May, the second straight monthly increase. However, prices were still down 15 percent from a year earlier.

Still to come: the Conference Board releases its August consumer confidence index at 10 am ET.

In other news this morning, President Obama officially reappointed Ben Bernankefor another term as Federal Reserve chairman. There had been speculation that White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers might be tapped for the job, but Obama opted to reappoint Bernanke.

Bernanke's next challenge will be presiding over the recovery, economists said.

“The next phase is almost as difficultas the first one he presided over in saving the economy from a deeper recession or worse,” FAO chief economist Robert Brusca said.

There are only a handful of events on the calendar, and trading volume is likely to be light once again.

The Treasury will auction $42 billion in 2-year notes today, with the results expected shortly after 1 pm New York time. That's the first of three note auctions this week that will total $109 billion.

A day after he said 150 to 200 more banks are going to fail before it's all over, Rochdale analyst Dick Bove widened his full-year loss projection for Morgan Stanley , saying the brokerage is increasing risk and personnel without justification and that it "continues to fail to articulate a strategy."

Banks rose in early trading, with Bank of America up more than 2 percent.

ThinkEquity raised its rating on Google to "buy" from "source of funds" and raised its price target on the stock, saying it expects the search giant to meet or beat consensus estimates for the next few quarters.

The final remnants of earnings season continued to trickle in.

Burger King reported its profit increased as food costs declined.

Clear-out retailer Big Lots beat Wall Street expectations with what has become familiar theme for the second quarter: Sales fell but cost-cutting helped the bottom line numbers. Shares gained about 2 percent in premarket trading on the company's 35 cents per share earnings, better than Wall Street estimates of 30 cents.

The news wasn't as good for office retailer Staples . The company reported a 38 percent drop in quarterly profits as both costs and sales rose. Though the profit of 16 cents per share was in line with projections, shares dropped 1.3 percent premarket.

The White House will release its updated deficit projections at 9:30 am New York time, but the news is unlikely to move markets, since the numbers have already been widely reported. Deficit estimates for fiscal 2009 have been trimmed by $262 billion, but the U.S. will run a $9 trillion deficit over the next 10 years, $2 trillion more than previously estimated.

"Cash for clunkers" will remain in the news: the deadline for qualifying sales passed last night at 8 pm New York time, but dealers have been given an extension until midday today to file the necessary paperwork.

  • Automakers Face Letdown as 'Cash-for-Clunkers' Ends

The news will pick up as the week goes on. On tap are more than $100 billion in Treasury auctions, a report on bailout executive pay, durable-goods orders, new-home sales, the second reading on second-quarter GDP, personal income and spending, consumer confidence and spending, and earnings from Dell and Tiffany.

— Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.