Friday Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

There was no hangover for the markets on Friday. The S&P 500 once again flirted with 1,500 before retreating just a point shy. Generally strong earnings this season, backed by positive economic indicators, have helped drive markets toward five-year highs.

At 12:25 p.m.: DJIA: +0.43%, S&P 500: +0.25%, NASDAQ: +0.53%.

Oil and gold were both off slightly, at $95.68 per barrel and $1,660.40 per ounce, respectively.

Here are three stories moving markets on Friday:Man Measuring Money

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1) Toward the end of last year, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced not one, but two quantitative easing programs. These two new rounds of money printing have now officially pushed the central bank’s balance sheet to a new trillion-dollar level.

According to the latest statistical release, the Federal Reserve’s total assets increased $47.9 billion in the past week to hit $3.01 trillion, a fresh all-time record. Holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose $7.8 billion to $1.697 trillion, while mortgage-backed securities in the portfolio jumped $35.6 billion to $983.17 billion. By comparison, the central bank reported total assets of $926.6 billion in the beginning of 2008, before four rounds of quantitative easing… (Read more.)

Money-Fixed-Rate-Loans-Refinance-Home-Loan-Cash-7137492) Sales of new single-family homes in the United States declined last month, but prices continue to receive support from low inventory levels.

According to new data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, home sales in December dropped 7.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted 369,000-unit annual rate. It was the biggest monthly drop in almost two years and well below expectations of 385,000. By comparison, sales in November were revised 21,000 units higher to a 398,000-unit annual rate… (Read more.)

3) Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, has been hailed as the euro’s savior because of a bond-buying program that diffused what had become a dangerous level of tension in the markets last year. Draghi spearheaded operations that demonstrated commitment to nations in crisis, such as Spain, Greece, and Italy, removing crippling uncertainty about the fate of the region and the currency.

At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, currently underway, Draghi said that while the bond-buying maneuver helped remove risk for the euro, “we haven’t seen an equal momentum on the real side of the economy.” (Read more.)

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