U.S. stocks finished slightly higher Thursday as Greek political
leaders reached a tentative agreement on austerity moves, setting
the stage for the country to secure around $170 million in new
funding and averting a bond default next month.
Word of the deal began leaking out shortly before the U.S.
markets opened, lifting equities although momentum was rather
limited with defensive positions dominating during much of the
session. European finance ministers were meeting in Brussels today
to examine specific terms of the pact while banks and other private
holders of Greek debt still must finalize a deal on writing off up
to 70% of the value of bonds ahead of a March 20 deadline for the
nation to refinance its debt. The Greek parliament votes Sunday on
the austerity measures.
The Bank of England today announced a third round of
quantitative easing, pumping another 50 billion pounds ($79
billion) into British economy. The central bank also decided to
keep its bank lending rate at a record-low 1%. The European Central
Bank, also meeting today, made no changes in its policies.
Closer to home, new jobless claims last week were fewer than
expected with 358,000 people filing for unemployment insurance
benefits during the week ended Feb. 4, the Labor Department said
today. That was 15,000 fewer than last week, and 12,000 below the
370,000 new claims that experts polled by Bloomberg News had
forecast. The four-week moving average of claims fell to 366,250,
the lowest level since the end of April, 2008.
In company news, five of the nation's largest banks have agreed
to pay about $26 billion to end an investigation of alleged abuse
of mortgage borrowers in foreclosure procedures, the U.S. Justice
Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a
battery of state attorneys general. Included in the settlement are
), Bank of America (
), Wells Fargo (
), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (
) and Ally Financial (ALLY), the former GMAC mortgage unit.
Commodities were broadly higher today. March gold settled $9.70
higher at $1,739 an ounce. Crude oil also finished higher, with the
March contract adding $1.10 to trade around $99.80 a barrel,
briefly topping $100 this morning. Brent futures expanded their
margin over NYMEX comparables, rising 1.15% to $118.57 a barrel for
March crude. March natural gas settled 2.9 cents higher at 2.477
per 1 million British Thermal Units.
Here's where markets stood at end-of-day:
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 6.51 (+0.05%) to 12,890.46
S&P 500 up 1.99 (+0.15%) to 1,351.95
NASDAQ Composite up 11.37 (+0.39%) to 2,927.23
Nikkei down 0.15%.
Hang Seng up down 0.04%.
Shanghai Composite up 0.09%.
FTSE-100 up 0.28%.
(+) IPSU, Exploring a sale of its interest in Wholesome
(+) CYAN, Fiscal Q3 EPS was $0.20 vs. $0.00 a year ago. Revenues
(-) IRBT, Guides FY12 EPS of $0.75 to $0.95%; Street at $1.45 a
(-) PZZI, Reports $0.01 Q2 EPS vs. $0.06 last year. Sales flat
at $10.3 million.