Oh so close.
First, the scoreboard:
Dow: 12,984.7, +42.0, +0.3%
S&P 500: 1,363.4, +5.8, +0.4%
NASDAQ: 2,956.9, +23.8, +0.8%
And now, the top stories:
- Europe offered a mixed picture ahead of the U.S. trading session. On the bright side, German business confidence jumped to 109.6, which was a seven-month high. This news fueled gains in European stocks and U.S. futures. However, big banks including UK's Royal Bank of Scotland and France's Credit Agricole reported huge net losses. The European Commission also slashed its GDP growth forecast for the eurozone. They now expect GDP in the 17-nation bloc to decline 0.3 percent, which compares to an earlier forecast calling for 0.5 percent gain.
- So, what's to be made of this mixed bag of news? Well, Citigroup's economic team led by Willem Buiter doesn't seem too concerned. In fact, the firm just lifted its euro area GDP growth forecast to -1.3 percent from -1.5 percent. This was part of their rationale for raising their global GDP growth outlook to 2.4 percent from 2.3 percent. Here Are The Best And Worst Economists Of 2011 >
- However, some bears will continue to be bears. In a new note to clients, SocGen's permabear Albert Edwards wrote that the stock market rally is being driven by hope. "Hope still beats in the breasts of equity investors," wrote Edwards. "The market will rip out that hope and consume it in front of investors' eyes." A Monster Market Surge Is Making These Folks Look Like Fools >
- U.S. initial jobless claims came in at 351k last week. This was flat from the prior week's number and also better than the 355k figure that economists were expecting. But Nomura economists think we shouldn't get too excited about the numbers just yet. In the last three years, they note that the trend for initial jobless claims has been the same: declining from September to February then leveling off. To that, Modeled Behavior's Karl Smith takes a longer-term look at the non-seasonally adjusted data, which shows that the trend is very visibly improving.
- Stocks traded noticeably higher shortly after the release of the Kansas City Federal Reserve's manufacturing index, which jumped to 13 from January's reading of 7. Economists were expecting an increase to 9. “Factories further ramped up activity in February and – despite a drop off in export orders – were more optimistic about future output and hiring than at any time in the past year,” wrote Chad Wilkerson of the Kansas City Fed.
- Shares of biotech company Vivus exploded higher today, after the FDA overwhelmingly endorsed its weight-loss drug Qnexa.
- It's also worth noting that oil jumped to almost $108 per barrel. This has economists worried that higher energy costs will be a damper on consumer spending.
- Don't Miss: CITI: Sell These 19 Stocks Because The Rest Of Wall Street Is In Love With Them >
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