(XLF) Stock Market News for February 21, 2012 – Market News

Markets struggled for direction on Friday with few inputs from the news desk, but the prospect of a Greek deal next week enabled benchmarks to extend their gains to the highest levels this year. Cross-Atlantic developments had guided the markets on most of the days the week, while robust economic data single-handedly boosted the markets on Thursday. Thus, it was another week of strong gains for the benchmarks, and the Dow was just marginally short of the 13, 000 mark.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.4% to close the day at 12,949.87. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) edged up 0.2% to close marginally higher at 1,361.23. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index was the only one to miss out; dropping 0.4% to close Friday’s trading session at 2,951.78. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) shed 7.5% and settled at 17.78. Total volume on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was 3.72 billion shares. The advancers enjoyed an upper hand over the declining stocks, as for 56% of the gainers, 40% of the stocks traded lower. The remaining stocks were left unchanged.

Even as cross-Atlantic developments and tensions had investors wondering whether benchmarks would be able to record another week of robust gains, US economic data stepped in to drive optimism. On Thursday, investors were greeted with robust data from the jobs and housing sectors, both of which play huge role in shaping the economy. The U.S. Department of Labor reported another drop in initial claims, painting a rosy picture of declining unemployment. Separately, according to a joint release from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, both building permits and housing starts reflected encouraging trends, lifting the broader sentiment.

These developments in addition to Friday’s gains culminated in another week of gains and the Dow, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up 1.2%, 1.4% and 1.7%, respectively. The week ending on February 10 had been disappointing, largely due to Greek concerns. However, the week ending February 19 came to a close on a winning note. Investors remained largely optimistic about the Greek debt deal and it is widely expected that the country will secure the next tranche of its bailout package early this week.

On the economic front, consumer prices were reported to have moved higher, buoyed by higher gasoline prices. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.2% last month, marking its highest rise in four months. The increase in gasoline prices is a concern and it can also adversely affect the economic recovery. Consensus estimates had predicted the CPI to increase 0.3%.

Coming back to the benchmarks, the Dow is precisely 50.13 points shy of hitting the psychological 13, 000 level. The last time the Dow had witnessed such a level was in May 2008, a time before the recession. Breaking the 13, 000 barrier would be a major psychological boost for investors, who will definitely love to see the Dow move back to pre-recessionary levels. However, during May 2008, unemployment was at 5.4% versus 8.3% now. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had voiced his concerns about the long-term prospects of jobs and the unemployment situation. Jobs markets have been showing a positive trend in recent days, but are still far behind pre-recessionary levels. The Dow’s current level may therefore not depict an accurate picture about the financial scenario, which is fraught with European debt concerns.

As for the individual sectors, the financial sector was one of the leading gainers and the Financial SPDR Select Sector Fund (XLF) was up 0.7%. As for the stocks of this sector, Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE:C), JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) increased 0.6%, 1.2%, 1.0%, 0.9% and 2.4%, respectively.

 

CITIGROUP INC (C): Free Stock Analysis Report

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JPMORGAN CHASE (JPM): Free Stock Analysis Report

US BANCORP (USB): Free Stock Analysis Report

WELLS FARGO-NEW (WFC): Free Stock Analysis Report

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