Stocks in the US closed mixed in thin trading Friday ahead of the three-day holiday weekend, but all major averages logged robust gains for the week following some positive economic news and amid optimism that Greece will soon find a solution to its debt crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 45.79 points, or 0.35 percent, to close at 12,949.87, just shy of the psychologically-important 13,000 mark. The S&P500 added 3.19 points, or 0.23 percent, to end at 1,361.23. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq pulled back 8.07 points, or 0.27 percent, to finish at 2,951.78 after several days of gains.
Optimism in Europe grew after German officials gave up plans to pressure Greece by withholding part of the bailout. European shares ended higher as investors bet that Greece would sign a deal to secure a second bailout, avoiding a messy default.
On the economic front, consumer prices climbed in January as gasoline prices gained, according to the Labor Department, logging its biggest gain in four months.
Also on the economic front, leading indicators rose in January, according to the Conference Board, climbing a to 3-1/2 year high.
Movements in other markets were fairly benign on Friday. The US dollar index and gold were little changed at 79.33 and US$1724.30/oz respectively while the Aussie has ticked down 0.3% to US$1.0720. Base metals closed mixed on smallish moves and while West Texas crude jumped US$1.75 to US$104.06/bbl, Brent fell US69c to US$119.50/bbl.
Economic data in the US this week include the Chicago Fed national activity index and existing home sales on Wednesday, the FHFA house price index on Thursday and new home sales on Friday along with the fortnightly consumer sentiment measure. Over the week the Treasury will auction two, five and seven-year bonds. Markets in the US are closed today for President’s day.
The eurozone's estimate of the February composite PMI is released on Wednesday, Germany's IFO survey of business activity is released on Thursday and on Friday both the eurozone and UK will revise their earlier December quarter GDP estimates.
HSBC's "flash" estimate of China's February manufacturing PMI is out on Wednesday.
Australia's December GDP is due out on March 7 so between now and then we see various sets of quarterly data. This week brings the wage cost index on Wednesday and average weekly wages on Thursday. The RBA will release the minutes of its last meeting on Tuesday and explain further why it left its cash rate on hold, and Glenn Stevens will appear before the House Economics Committee on Friday. Westpac and the Conference Board will both provide their December leading economic indices on Wednesday.
This week will be the one of the busiest weeks in February with companies reporting earnings. Today's highlights include Amcor (AMC) and Lend Lease (LLC). Tuesday investors can expect Downer EDI (DOW), Oilsearch (OSH) and online recruiter Seek (SEK). On Wednesday retailer David Jones (DJS) will report second quarter sales, plasma maker CSL (CSL) will announce first half results and Woodside Petroleum (WPL) full year results. Thursday we can expect an update from Cabcharge (CAB), Fairfax Media (FXJ) and discount airline carrier Virgin Blue (VAH). We round off the week with AGL Energy (AGL) and Crown Ltd (CWN) reporting half year results on Friday.