Week in Review
Europe took center stage this past week with the European Central Bank announcing a massive bond-buying program on Thursday to help the continent out of its current state of malaise. ECB president Mario Dragi said that the bank will buy the Euro equivalent of $67 billion in assets, including sovereign government bonds, beginning in March and extending through the end of the third quarter of 2016, and perhaps beyond. Although Friday saw an 11 point drop in the S&P 500, the index finished up by a respectable 1.6% for the week. The Dow Industrials advanced 161 points or nearly 1% and the tech-heavy NASDAQ moved higher in the holiday shortened week by 2.7%. The market had advanced earlier in the week on anticipation of the European quantitative easing program and traders took advantage of the January dip in prices to move into equities. Technology led the pace higher followed by consumer services and industrials and only telecommunication stocks were lower on average after a strong showing last week. Gold moved higher once again closing in on $1,292/oz., but oil fell once again to below $46/bbl. On Thursday the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee ends its meeting, but there isn’t expected to be much change in the Fed’s direction on monetary policy for the foreseeable future. It was a rough week for two buttonwoodproject names: United Parcel Service warned of lower than expected fourth quarter results and Kimberly-Clark missed revenue projections on currency translation effects and lowered earnings guidance for 2015. Johnson & Johnson had mixed results, but Verizon Communications posted decent fourth quarter earnings and is raising its capital expenditures for the year. And income choice Royal Bank of Canada made a move to acquire City National Corp. to gain access to its lucrative wealth management business. There will be a slew of fourth quarter earnings this week, some of which may surprise and move the markets (think Boeing, AT&T and Microsoft, for example). On Tuesday 3M Co. reports results with estimates of $1.80 for the final quarter of 2014 vs. $1.62 a year-ago; Danaher Corp. ($1.04 vs. $0.96); and DuPont & Co. ($0.71 vs. $0.59). On Wednesday we will hear from QUALCOMM with first quarter estimates of $1.25 vs. $1.01 and later in the week Dow Chemical reports earnings estimated at $0.69 vs. $0.65. All are major multi-nationals and the effects of the strong dollar may make for difficult comparisons and lower guidance, so I am not too optimistic on any upward surprises.
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