Market Recap: Stocks Mixed After Bernanke Leaves Door Open for More Easing

Markets closed mixed on Wall Street today: Dow -0.09%, S&P +0.11%, Nasdaq +0.40%, Oil -1.07%, Gold +0.74%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell to $96.57 a barrel. Precious metals were up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) climbing to $1,762.40 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 1.53% to settle at $34.33.

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Today’s markets were mixed because:

1) Bernanke. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Congressional Budget Committee today, saying that, though the economy has recently shown signs of improvement, the pace of the recovery is “frustratingly slow,” thus leaving the economy “vulnerable to shocks,” including the debt crisis in Europe. However, his testimony spurred speculation that the Fed would be willing to begin another quantitative easing program — in which it would purchase Treasury bonds and other assets — should the economy take a turn for the worse.

2) Greece. The debt-ridden nation is said to be nearing a deal with private creditors that could see them accepting a writedown of up to 70 percent on the value of their Greek debt holdings, and is soon expected to enact the necessary measures to receive its second, 130 billion-euro bailout from its troika of lenders. That bailout will ensure that Greece is able to make a 14.5 billion-euro debt payment on March 20. However, a European Union official speaking on condition of anonymity has come out and said that Greece will need another 15 billion euros if it is to reduce its debt to a manageable level.

3) Retail. Twenty retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters released January same-store sales figures today, together notching a 4.2 percent sales gain when economists had projected 2 percent growth. Costc0 (NASDAQ:COST), Target (NYSE:TGT), Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS), and Saks (NYSE:SKS) were among the retailers whose January sales beat expectations, but roughly a third of the retailers reporting today fell short, including Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), Macy’s (NYSE:M), Dillard’s (NYSE:DDS), and the Bon-Ton Stores (NASDAQ:BONT).

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