Three big reasons to be bullish

Though the economy is not out of the woods, improvement in retail, housing and corporate dividends are encouraging signs

By InvestorPlace Apr 8, 2010 10:45AM

bull market stocksSome investors have already made up their mind the stock market rally is over. Others are convinced there’s nowhere to go but up. Both views are over-simplified market predictions considering the complicated economic environment.

A closer look at the latest stock market news proves that while things aren’t all coming up roses on Wall Street, there are plenty of reasons to be cautiously optimistic the bull market will continue. Here’s a brief look at three of the latest reasons from the last few days that indicate the market should continue its run:

1. Retailers Report Strong Sales for March

Warmer weather thawed consumers spending freeze in March as retailers posted strong sales on the month. Today, we learned that big box store Target (TGT), department store Macy’s (M), trendy clothing retailers The Gap (GPS) and Limited Brands (LTD)

all posted double-digit increases that beat Wall Street analysts' expectations. Analysts expect that March sales at stores open at least a year should be up 6.3% from a year earlier.

An improving job market and an early Easter sent shoppers to the mall in force this march. It’s worth noting that March 2009 was perhaps the worst month of the whole recession when the market bottomed out at a 12-year low. But easy comparisons aside, the strength in retail is certainly a sign of improvements in consumer spending.

2. Housing Sales Stabilizing in Vegas

A recent report shows that signs of life are emerging in some of the hardest hit housing markets. For instance, March sales in Las Vegas rose 33% over February and prices saw a slight boost. Compared to last year, sales were up almost 7%.

Granted, Vegas still has a long way to go considering it was the foreclosure capital of America after the housing bubble burst. Some figures estimate that a whopping 1 in 20 mortgages are in risk of default in the desert tourist town. Still, signs of life in the worst housing markets are just as important as finding a few regions that are already back on their feet. This is an encouraging trend if it keeps up.

3. Dividend Stocks Pay Out Big in Q1

After a lean 2009 where profits many corporations are sending cash back to shareholders via dividends. In fact, a rash of dividend increases the first quarter of 2010 boasted an additional $6.4 billion in payouts. That includes old favorites like Pepsi (PEP) but also companies like Starbucks (SBUX), which just declared its first quarterly dividend ever.

That’s quite a turnaround, considering a record 367 companies slashed dividends during Q1 in 2009. But in the first-quarter of 2010, only 48 companies decreased their dividend payments.

You can expect the dividend party to continue as the year goes on. Honeywell (HON) should announce a dividend increase at its shareholder meeting later this month. The fact that stocks are spending cash on their shareholders instead of hunkering down for another disaster is certainly a cheerful sign.

Get for more detail on these bullish signs and for four more reasons the bulls are back.


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