Stocks Edged Higher Ahead of Housing Data

U.S. stocks edged higher in early trading on Wednesday before data that could illustrate a February rise in existing home sales. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 12.67 points to 13,182.86. The S&P 500 Index added 1.56 point to 1,407.08. The Nasdaq Composite rose 9.38 points to 3,083.53.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes likely increased in February to the highest level in two years. Economists forecast that sales increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million last month, according to a FactSet survey.

The head of the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s market-regulation department has left the company, the second compliance official to leave the exchange amid a regulatory investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Bowing to pressure from hedge-fund titan John Paulson, Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE:HIG) said Wednesday it would exit its annuity business and weigh a sale of a large portion of its life-insurance operation.

Oil prices rose to near $107 a barrel Wednesday after a report showed U.S. crude supplies fell unexpectedly, a sign demand may be improving in the world’s largest economy. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for May delivery was up 49 cents to $106.56 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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