Stocks close up sharply, boosted by Greece and oil

03.02.2015 01:25

Stocks close up sharply, boosted by Greece and oil

Evelyn Cheng |

U.S. stocks closed sharply higher on encouraging news from the Eurozone and stronger oil prices.

“Some of the tension has cooled off,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, referring to late-afternoon reports that Greece’s financial minister revealed a plan to end confrontation with its creditors.

“In essence that will help us alleviate some of the Greece, Europe pressure,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 200 points in the minutes before the close. In a “double-triple move,” the index gained 100 in late morning trade after earlier falling more than 120 points on weaker-than-expected ISM figures.

For much of the day stocks struggled for direction amid weaker-than-expected ISM figures and firming oil prices.

“The economic data was not good, but it wasn’t negative,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. “The market has hit a technical brick wall here.”

The late-afternoon rally pushed the S&P 500 above the key 2,000 level, which Cardillo and other analysts were watching on this first day of February trade as an indicator of market direction.

U.S. crude closed up at $49.57 a barrel, the highest in nearly a month, after touching an intraday high of $50.56 and slumping to $46.67 in Asian trading.

“The market seems to take its cue off oil prices firming, and Exxon Mobil (earnings), all collectively keeping the overall market relatively stable,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Energy led gains on the S&P 500, closing up 3 percent. Telecommunications followed closely behind, ending the day up 2.43 percent.

Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at R.W. Baird, said telecoms have been a “defensive area” with high yields. “That’s where investors have been gravitating towards,” he said.

Late last week, the Federal Communications Commission auctioned part of the wireless spectrum to major telecom companies led by AT&T for a total of $41 billion. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal also reported that the FCC will likely announce this week that it will allow more cities to build broadband networks for high-speed Internet access.

The ISM manufacturing index hit 53.5 in January 2015, below expectations of 54.5, the weakest reading since January last year.

Exxon Mobil reported earnings that beat expectations but were lower than the year-ago quarter.

Eighty-five S&P 500-listed companies are posting quarterly results this week, along with three Dow components.

Read MoreIn a market that loves certainty, more volatility

Stocks closed sharply lower on Friday, with the Dow off more than 250 points and the S&P 500 below the key 2,000 level, for two consecutive monthly declines.

Economic data due out during the day include the ISM Index for January, along with construction spending.

U.S. consumer spending recorded its biggest decline since late 2009 in December, with households appearing to save the extra cash from cheaper gasoline, which could support future consumption.

Asian data out earlier showed that manufacturing activity in China is still contracting. China’s final HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.7 in January, a touch below its 49.8 flash reading. The 50-point mark separates expansion from contraction.

Greece’s new left-wing government began what one analyst called a “charm offensive” on Sunday, in an effort to persuade its euro zone partners to soften the terms of its international bailout. The government has already started to reverse austerity measures unpopular in Greece that were a condition of its current bailout agreement.

Read MoreWhy Treasury yields can’t arrest the freefall

In a budget plan unveiled on Monday, President Barack Obama called for a one-time, 14 percent tax on profits piled up abroad by multinationals, such as General Electric and Pfizer. He also sought to impose a 19 percent tax on U.S. companies’ future foreign earnings

DJIA Dow Jones Industrial Average 17361.04
196.09 1.14%
S&P 500 S&P 500 Index 2020.85
25.86 1.30%
NASDAQ Nasdaq Composite Index 4676.69
41.45 0.89%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 196.09 points, or 1.14 percent, at 17,361.04, with Chevron leading gains and Nike the only blue chip lagging.

The S&P 500 closed up 25.86 points, or 1.30 percent, at 2,020.85, with energy leading gains across all sectors.

The Nasdaq closed up 41.45 points, or 0.89 percent, at 4,676.69 points.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 19.5.

Read MoreMonday’s midday movers: Exxon, Delta & more

About five stocks advanced for every two decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 911 million and a composite volume of nearly nearly 4 billion in the close.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield held near 1.67 percent. The U.S. dollar traded lower against major world currencies.

Gold futures closed down $3.80 at $1,279.20 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


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