Market Recap: Stocks Slip as Greek Bailout Decision Postponed

Markets closed down on Wall Street today: Dow -0.76%, S&P -0.54%, Nasdaq -0.55%, Oil +1.27%, Gold +0.72%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) rose to $102.02 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising to $1,730.00 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 0.13% to settle at $33.39.

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Today’s markets were down because:

1) Greece. You may be asking yourself, What could Greece have possibly done this time? Well, nothing, and that’s the problem.  Greece still remains on the brink of disaster, a little piece of land it has called home since 2010. Greece’s progress has been gruelingly slow, and at times non-existent. Now that the government has acquiesced to the euro zone’s demands for austerity, all that’s left to do is await finance ministers’ approval, which many had anticipated would come on Wednesday at a meeting that was ultimately canceled at the last minute. Though the meeting was rescheduled for the beginning of next week, and finance ministers have hinted they will approve the latest economic reform proposal, which Greece needs in order to secure its next bailout, no one wants to count their chickens before they hatch.

2) Euro. The overall euro-zone economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2011 for the first time since 2009, but the 0.3 percent decline was not as bad as economists had expected. The latest figures were helped by a smaller-than-expected decline in Germany’s gross domestic product, and unexpected growth in France. Meanwhile, China pledged to invest in Europe’s bailout funds while sustaining its holdings of euro assets. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said, “China is firm in supporting the EU side in dealing with the debt problems,” assuaging fears over the the euro zone’s seeming inability to effectively combat the debt crisis.

3) Companies. The day held much in the way of corporate news, with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) shares jumping after the cable provider beat estimates for its fourth-quarter profit and revenue, and announced a 44 percent increase to its dividend as well as a $6.5 billion stock buyback program. Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) and Dean Foods (NYSE:DF) were also trading higher, though both reported fourth-quarter losses, while higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit boosted shares of Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN). Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Kellogg (NYSE:K) were trading higher after the latter agreed to pay the former $2.7 billion to buy its Pringles potato chip unit, while Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) sank after the social gaming company posted a $404 million loss for its full fiscal year.

BONUS: Austerity: The Real Cost of Greece’s Bailouts