Deal to avert a Greek default helped lift US stocks to records in a week
New York - AFP
A deal to avert a Greek default helped lift US stocks to records in a week that also featured a Walmart wage hike and dovish Federal Reserve meeting minutes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 121.09 points (0.67 percent) to 18,140.44, finishing the week at a fresh record. The S&P 500 rose 13.31 (0.63 percent) to 2,110.30, also a record.
The biggest gains were in the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, which put on 62.63 (1.27 percent) to 4,955.97.
Uncertainty about Greece hung over Wall Street all week as officials from Athens and other eurozone countries sparred over conditions of extending the Greek bailout.
Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said the continued threat of a default depressed trade volume as investors "showed little conviction."
But US stocks surged late Friday after eurozone ministers agreed to extend Greece's bailout for four months provided Athens spells out key reform commitments by Monday.
Stocks were further bolstered by Fed minutes suggesting the US central bank would wait longer before raising interest rates.
Many members of the Federal Open Market Committee were more concerned about moving too soon and stifling economic growth, especially given the troubled economies in Europe and Asia, according to minutes from the FOMC's January 27-28 policy meeting.
"The meeting minutes were surprisingly dovish," said IHS Global Insight in a note that said the chance of a Fed rate hike as early as June had diminished.
Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, said the Fed minutes confirmed the central bank's caution in raising rates. At the same time, expectations of tighter monetary policy at some point in 2015 will challenge stocks, he said.
"We are in for a year that's going to feature more volatility than last year," Wren said.
The broad market is "pretty much at full value," Wren said, though technology stocks have "more room to run" than other sectors.
Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Capital Markets, was also bullish on tech as the Nasdaq edged closer to 5,000.
"The Nasdaq is not too expensive," Volokhine said. "The companies have delivered on their targets and are not overvalued."
- Walmart hikes wages -
The week's biggest corporate story was Wal-Mart Stores' announcement that it plans to hike wages for 500,000 workers in the US.
Walmart, the largest private single employer in the United States, said salaries for about 40 percent of its US staff would be lifted to at least $9 per hour in April, $1.75 above the federal minimum wage. By February 1, 2016, US staff will be paid at least $10 an hour.
The move follows mounting criticism by labor unions and other groups that the company's low wages have locked workers into poverty and pressured some of them to seek public assistance to make ends meet.
Walmart expects the costs to trim 20 cents per share from earnings this year.
Dow component Walmart shares lost nearly three percent Thursday following the news, although shares rallied somewhat on Friday.
In other news, chemical company DuPont, raised the volume in its proxy battle with activist fund Trian Fund Management, hitting out at the activist fund for launching a campaign "based on misrepresentations, inaccurate data and flawed analysis."
Chesapeake Energy, a big player in the US shale boom, filed suit against the company's former chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, alleging McClendon took proprietary information on oil prospects when he left the company.
McClendon called the suit "baseless" and said he would sue Chesapeake for failure to honor its contractual obligations. The case focuses on oilfield data McClendon used to acquire drilling prospects for his new venture, American Energy Partners.
Next week's calendar includes quarterly earnings from Dow member Home Depot, as well as an annual investor day at JPMorgan Chase.
Major economic reports include the second estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product, a reading on consumer confidence for February and a trove of housing data.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen faces two day of congressional hearings.