What started out looking like a bad week for the U.S. equity markets turned out pretty alright by mid-week. The Dow climbed back above 14,000 on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 finished above 1,500, after both indices closed below the arbitrary yet psychologically-significant levels earlier in the week. A 4.5 percent increase in pending home sales helped catalyze market gains.
On the commodities front, WTI crude (NYSEARCA:USO) wobbled to $92.76 per barrel. Brent fell slightly to $111.85 per barrel. Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for April delivery, the most active contract, dropped $19.80 to settle at $1,595.70 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures for March declined 32 cents to close at $28.94.
Both precious metals consolidated after a strong two-day bounce, despite the U.S. dollar edging lower. Ben Bernanke delivered a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill for the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report. The Federal Reserve Chairman continued to defend the central bank’s record low interest rates and quantitative easing programs and commented on the state of the economy.
Bernanke’s take is of the of glass-half-full variety, describing the labor market as “improving gradually” though “generally weak.” Some early focus was given to the dual mandate of the Federal Reserve — which states that the FOMC will try to maximize employment and maintain moderate long-term interest rates — and the central bank’s decision to link its policy to these metrics… (Read more.)