Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow +0.05% , S&P +0.15% , Nasdaq +0.39% , Oil +1.04% , Gold +0.03% .
On the commodities front, Oil rose to $99.74 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold rising to $1,731.80 an ounce while Silver rose 0.49% to settle at $33.87.
Today’s markets were up because:
1) Unemployment. New applications for jobless benefits fell by 15,000 in the week ended February 4, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington, continuing a fairly consistent downward trend that has brought down the four-week moving average to 366,250, the lowest since the week ended April 26, 2008. Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings, and their decline demonstrates an easing of dismissals that correlates with the drop in the unemployment rate, which fell in January to a three-year low of 8.3 percent.
2) Banks. Bank stocks were trading mixed today, taming what might have been a more vigorous rally, after five of the nation’s biggest banks — Bank of America , JPMorgan , Wells Fargo , Citigroup , and Ally Financial — agreed to a $25 billion mortgage settlement. Bank of America managed to claw its way to gains of around 0.6 percent, but the other three publicly-traded banks involved in the settlement spent most of the day in the red.
3) Greece. It would be impossible not to mention Greece at all, given that negotiations finally gave way to some weighty developments today, with party leaders (finally) reaching an agreement on austerity measures and reforms. Though a deal has long been expected, any lingering doubts that the country would be able to secure more bailout funds and avoid a default have been assuaged, at least for the moment.