Market Recap: Stocks Move Higher on Data, Financials

Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow +0.36%, S&P +0.49%, Nasdaq +0.67%, Oil -0.04%, Gold -0.16%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell slightly to $100.55 a barrel. Precious metals were also mixed, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling to $1,657.30 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 0.12% to settle at $30.58.

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Today’s markets were up because:

1) Data. The government released housing, unemployment claims, and inflation figures today, delivering mixed messages about the state of the economic recovery. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 50,000 last week to 352,000 — the lowest level since April 2008, but a separate report showed housing starts declined 4.1 percent in December as falling home prices and ongoing foreclosures continued to hamper an industry-wide recovery. The government’s key measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, showed prices to be relatively unchanged from November to December.

2) Europe. Investors will stay focused on Europe this week as Greece continues negotiations with private creditors on the size of the writedown they will accept on their sovereign debt holdings. Yesterday, news that the International Monetary Fund would seek to increase the size of its war chest helped markets rally, while Spanish and French bond auctions today drew solid demand, calming fears about Europe’s ability to fund its debt.

3) Banks. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) led the Dow higher today after posting fourth-quarter net income of $2 billion and revenue that topped expectations. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) posted a loss, but not so deep as analysts had expected, and shares spiked over 5 percent. The news helped lift Citigroup (NYSE:C) and JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) about 1 percent after they filed disappointing results earlier this week.

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