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Stocks end the day flat after suprisingly good results on housing and earnings

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A huge upside surprise in the housing market didn't give stocks much of a boost today. New home sales surged 9.6% in January to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 468,000 from a revised 427,000 in December. The January sales were the highest since July of 2008 and well above the 401,000 economists were expecting.

The Dow (^DJI), Nasdaq (^IXIC), and S&P 500 (^GSPC) all finished the day marginally higher.

Home improvement giant, Lowe’s (LOW), reported strong sales growth, with same store sales up 3.9% in the fourth quarter. The company also announced plans for a new $5 billion dollar stock buyback. Lowe’s shares ended the day up more than 5%.

Another retailer also reported good news, relatively speaking. Target (TGT) shares were sharply higher much of the day, after the company said earnings and revenue declined in the fourth quarter but managed to come in ahead of Wall Street estimates. This was the company’s first quarterly earnings report since a cyber attack that compromised tens of millions of customers’ personal information over the holiday season. Shares of Target ended the day up nearly more than 7%

Billionaire investor, Carl Icahn, renewed his pressure on eBay (EBAY) to spin off its PayPal unit. Icahn issued another public letter to shareholders in the ongoing war between the activist investor and eBay’s board of directors. In the latest letter, he says that in the coming weeks he will lay out the “full, detailed business case” to support splitting PayPay from eBay. In a previous letter issued this week, Icahn accused members of the eBay board of various conflicts of interest. eBay has consistently stated it has no plans to spin off PayPal.