US STOCKS-Wall St gains on confidence, home price data

* Consumer confidence, Case Shiller better than expected
* Midwest business activity registers an August slowdown
* Monsanto off after outlook, RIM falls on analyst comment
* Dow up 0.5 pct, S&P up 0.5 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to midday, changes byline)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Aug 31 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) rose on Tuesday
as a pair of positive data surprises helped alleviate
continued investor anxiety over the economy’s strength.

U.S. consumer confidence rose more than expected in
August, lifted by a mild improvement in the short-term
outlook, though a separate report showed business activity in
the U.S. Midwest registered a slowdown in August, growing a
bit less than economists expected. For details, see
[ID:nN31236324] and [ID:nN31183001]

Earlier, the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller home price
indexes showed prices of U.S. single-family homes rose
slightly more than expected in June, reflecting the lingering
boost from homebuyer tax credits that ended in April.

“Consumer confidence was the second positive surprise we
had today, suggesting that if we haven’t hit the peak of
bearishness, we’re probably close,” said Uri Landesman,
president of Platinum Partners in New York.

“These two datapoints, combined, are probably preventing
what could have been a pretty bad day.”

Equities have been pressured in recent weeks by bearish
economic data, with a reading of manufacturing activity in the
Mid-Atlantic region and U.S. housing starts for July both
coming in below below expectations during the month of August.
This Friday, investors will be paying close attention to the
August non-farm payroll number, which is expected to confirm
that the economy shed jobs during the month.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) was up 51.54
points, or 0.51 percent, at 10,061.27. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) was up 5.16 points, or 0.49 percent, at
1,054.08. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) was up 6.20
points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,126.17.

Before rebounding, the S&P 500 neared 1,040 in early
trading, a key support level that was successfully defended
twice last week.

Bouncing off the 1,040 level shows “that this is a market
driven by technicals,” said Wayne Kaufman, chief market
analyst at the New York-based John Thomas Financial. “Friday’s
report will be important for giving us direction, but the
short-term bias is up.”

Limiting the S&P 500’s gain was Monsanto Co (MON.N: ), the
index’s top percentage decliner. Monsanto’s stock dropped 3.2
percent to $52.70 after the world’s biggest seed company
forecast full-year earnings below expectations and said it
would further reduce its work force. [ID:nN31227644]

Though Kaufman said corporate outlooks would dictate
market direction in the medium term, he noted that “Monsanto
is its own story, not part of a trend. It used to be one of my
favorite picks, but they’ve had problems for a long time.”

The Nasdaq’s advance was curbed by Research in Motion Ltd
(RIMM.O: )(RIM.TO: ). The Canadian’s company’s U.S.-listed shares
lost 5.3 percent to $43.15 after Sanford C. Bernstein cut its
price target on the stock, citing a threat to the contribution
to earnings from the BlackBerry maker’s corporate business.

On the upside, Deere & Co (DE.N: ) rose nearly 2 percent to
$64.21 after a deal to sell its wind power business to
electric utility Exelon Corp (EXC.N: ) for about $860 million.
Exelon’s stock was up 0.4 percent at $40.70. [ID:nSGE67U0GG]

Later on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve is scheduled to
release the minutes from its policy meeting on Aug. 10, when
it endorsed a more dovish monetary posture, citing a
willingness to “reinvest” in monetary accommodation. Last
week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech the recovery
had weakened more than expected.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)

US STOCKS-Wall St gains on confidence, home price data