Sun, Feb 19, 2012 - Page 10 News List

US stock markets gain on hope of Greece deal

WAIT AND SEE:Analysts say the latest chapter in the Greek debt drama could end as early as tomorrow, while data showed that the US economy continues to grow

AFP, NEW YORK

Signs of strengthening US growth and that Greece’s debt deal might finally be sealed within days helped US stocks rack up weekly gains on Friday, with the Dow hitting its highest level since May 2008.

The on-again off-again Greek refinancing — expected to involve hundreds of billions of dollars — kept the markets unsettled all week.

However, growing optimism for the deal on Thursday and Friday pushed stocks solidly into the black for a week of net gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 1.15 percent higher for the week, at 12,949.87.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 1.37 percent to finish at 1,361.23, while the NASDAQ Composite gained 1.64 percent to 2,951.78.

“Wall Street adopted a wait-and-see attitude heading into the long holiday weekend,” Jim Cunningham of Schaeffer’s Investment Research said. “That’s because the Greek debt drama could be put to rest as early as Monday, when eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss the possible bailout.”

US markets are closed tomorrow for Presidents Day.

Economic data released during the week was generally positive, showing the economy holding up last month and the jobs market firming.

“The more important story is that economic data continue to show that the US economy is growing in spite of the eurozone debt crisis and the slowdown in China,” Patrick O’Hare of Briefing.com said.

The week also ended on a confidence-boosting note when Republicans in the US Congress decided to avoid yet another tense and economically damaging showdown with the White House and agreed to renew key tax breaks set to expire at the end of the month.

Traders are on the lookout to see whether the Dow can breach the 13,000-level and top its 2008 best — 13,028 on May 19, 2008.

“Psychologically, 13,000, if we get to that early next week, that certainly would give a psychological lift to the market,” Peter Cardillo of Rockwell Global Capital said.

“The market moved higher with the good economic data and the fact that interest rates are quite low. So the markets are probably setting the stage for another bull run,” he said.

“Good weather and momentum should propel both new and existing home sales higher in January,” Patrick Newport at IHS Global Insight said. “Consumer sentiment in February should be slightly lower than in January.”

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