Market Recap: Stocks Rally as Fed Extends Record-Low Interest Rates

Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow +0.66%, S&P +0.87%, Nasdaq +1.14%, Oil +0.85%, Gold +2.79%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) climbed to $99.79 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising to $1,710.90 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) climbed 4.10% to settle at $33.29.

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Today’s markets were up because:

1) Europe. European leaders are meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum kicked off today with a keynote speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which she suggested the European Union and the United States pursue a free trade deal to grow industry. Merkel reiterated her commitment to the euro, particularly to a fiscal compact that would hold euro states accountable to the group for their budgets so as to avoid the profligacy that set off the debt crisis in the first place. However, the leader of the euro’s largest economy batted away appeals from the International Monetary Fund and many others to increase the size of the fund created to help weaker euro-zone nations struggling under the burden of their government debt.

2) Fed. After a morning slump, stocks moved higher in the afternoon following the report by the Federal Open Market Committee and comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Fed policymakers announced their decision today not to increase its benchmark interest rate until at least late 2014, extending an earlier commitment to keep record-low rates through mid-2013. The decision leaves the door open for further bond buying to stimulate the economy, though officials have resisted further purchases for fear it would raise the risk of high inflation later. The Fed also offered a better outlook for prices that will allow it more room to keep rates low.

3) Apple. The Nasdaq climbed higher today after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported the best quarter ever for a tech company. Apple doubled profit and revenue year-over-year in the last quarter, earning more money in the Q1 2012 than the entire company was worth just eight years ago. Apple saw more than twice the profits of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) or Walmart (NYSE:WMT), while Apple’s profits exceeded Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) entire revenue for the quarter. Apple shares closed the day at $446.66 after climbing 6.24 percent in regular trading today.

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