The dark clouds that brewed over the U.S. equity markets early in the morning dissipated by the afternoon, and by the closing bell the major indices were all posting gains. The S&P finished the day 10 points away from a record high, while the CBOE volatility index dropped 8.2 percent to 11.56, its lowest level since February of 2007.
At the close: DJIA: +0.35%, S&P 500: +0.32%, NASDAQ: +0.26%
WTI crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) for April delivery edged up a penny to $91.99 per barrel. Brent crude dropped 79 cents to $110.08 per barrel. Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for April delivery, the most active contract, increased $1.10 to close at $1,578 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures for May fell 10 cents to finish the day at $28.85. Both precious metals were relatively quiet, as speculation continues to build on how the Federal Reserve will conduct an exit strategy from its easy-money policy. The central bank’s balance sheet has exploded to more than $3 trillion. On a recent trip to Capitol Hill, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed a review of an exit strategy will be done “sometime soon.”
Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is sitting on a 2014 budget proposal that calls for President Barack Obama’s healthcare law to be repealed… (Read more.)
Fitch has downgraded Italy’s sovereign debt from A- to BBB+, citing the current political instability and bleak forecasts for GDP and employment in the coming year. The agency maintains a negative outlook.