This week all markets focused on Greece and Germany, which wields most of the economic power in the euro-zone these days. After the dust cleared, European finance ministers reached an agreement with Greece on Friday approving a four-month extension of its bailout package, as long as the debt-laden country can satisfy some macro fiscal reform and budgetary measures. Reports out of Europe also showed some growth last week, as indicated by their equivalent to our Institute of Supply Management. Also, billionaire investor Warren Buffett has indicated he is likely to buy a small business in Western Europe, possibly finding some values in the beaten up economy. Here at home, the European accord sent equities higher with the Dow picking up 0.7% to a new all-time high of 18,140. Likewise, the S&P 500 moved into new record territory up 0.6% and the NASDAQ rose 1.3% to 4,956, getting close to its record intra-day high of 5,132.52 set back during the dot-com bubble of 1999-2000. And some Federal Reserve members appeared to be leaning toward keeping interest rates near zero “for a longer time” citing sluggish inflation, the strong dollar and the Greek crisis. Most economists had their chips stacked on a hike over the summer, possibly as early as June. Oil took another tumble retreating $2.44 to $50.34/bbl., sending most energy shares lower for the week. Oil prices appear to be stabilizing at these low $50/bbl. levels. Most of the telecommunication stocks also saw down arrows, but all other major market sectors were positive led by healthcare along with some strength in industrials. In the coming week, a bevy of retailers will be reporting fourth quarter results ending January and it will be interesting to see if consumers used some of their gas pump savings on discretionary items over the all-important holiday season. On Friday a new fourth quarter GDP number will be released expected to be revised down to an annual rate of 2.1%. And a number of Federal Reserve bankers will be participating in a monetary policy forum at the University of Chicago – so the end of the week may be somewhat volatile.
Stock Market Trivia: Here are the answers to last week’s trivia questions: What is the oldest stock exchange, worldwide? What is the oldest stock exchange in the U.S.? Antwerp Bourse, 1531 (now merged with Brussels Bourse). Philadelphia Stock Exchange, 1790.
Today’s Trivia Question: What has been the longest-listed company on the NYSE? Check back next week for the answer.