S&P 500 finishes at a 4-year high

But the Dow can't top 13,000 for the day as an early rally fades, despite cheer about new-home sales and rising consumer confidence. AIG and Salesforce.com shares rise; Crocs tumbles on weak forecast. Crude oil nears $110; gasoline hits $3.65.

By Charley Blaine Feb 24, 2012 1:27PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 6:24 p.m. ET

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) couldn't finish above 13,000 today, but the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) did close at its highest level in nearly four years.

It was a frustrating finish for investors who have to wonder if the stock market has hit a peak and is poised for a pullback.

There are plenty of pundits who see a pullback as inevitable, especially after a week in which the Dow flirted with 13,000. The blue chips crossed the level on Tuesday and again today and fell back both times. There has to be additional worry because the S&P 500 barely achieved its best close since June 5, 2008, and could not get past 1,370.51, its intraday level set on May 2, 2011.

What happened today probably had little to do with the fundamentals facing the stock market, except maybe worries about what happens if crude oil (-CL) in New York moves above $110 a barrel. Instead, the rally looks seriously tired. When the Dow peaked at 13,013.82 today, the blue-chip index was up 25.1% from its Oct. 3 intraday low.

The Dow closed down 2 points to 13,983. The S&P 500 was up 2 points to 1,366, and the Nasdaq finished with a 7-point gain to 2,964, its best close since Dec. 11, 2000.

Article continues below.
The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX), which tracks the largest Nasdaq stocks, added 9 points to 2,604. Helping the index were gains in Apple (AAPL), Oracle (ORCL), Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT). (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)

The S&P 500's finish was notable because the market capitalization of the stocks in the  index represents about 75% of the total value of the U.S. stock market. It includes the biggest stocks such as Apple (AAPL), Exxon Mobil (XOM), General Electric (GE)and Goldman Sachs (GS).

The index is now up 102% since bottoming in March 2009 and is within 13% of its 2007 peak. The Dow is up "only" 98% from its 2009 low.

The Nasdaq is up 134%, but much of its gain reflects the huge gain of Apple during that time.  Apple is up 568% from its 2009 bottom.

Stocks started higher thanks to a little cheer on January new-home sales, rising consumer confidence, especially about the jobs market, and decent earnings reported late Thursday by Salesforce.com (CRM) and American International Group (AIG).

In addition, energy shares were mostly higher as crude oil moved above $109 a barrel in New York and Brent crude in London topped $125 a barrel. Gold (-GC) and silver (-SI) fell  slightly.

Markets for the week



2/24/2012

2/17/2012

% chg.

YTD chg.
Dow Industrials

12,982.95

12,949.87

0.26%

6.26%
S&P 500

1,365.74

1,361.23

0.33%

8.60%
Nasdaq 

2,963.75

2,951.78

0.41%

13.77%
Russell 2000

826.92

828.68

-0.21%

11.61%
Crude oil 

$109.77

$103.60

5.96%

11.07%
(per barrel)











U.S. Dollar Index 

78.40

79.46

-1.33%

-2.63%
10-yr. Treasury

1.98%

2.01%

-1.64%

5.67%
Gold

$1,776.40

1,725.90

2.93%

13.38%

Crude flirts with 2011 highs
Crude oil peaked at $109.95 but settled at $109.77 a barrel, up up $1.94, on continued speculation that Iranian nuclear tensions will erupt into military action. The close was the highest since May 3, 2011, and is about $4 below the 2011 closing high of $113.93.

Crude has risen 45% since early October and 11% this year. Brent crude is up 16% this year. The oil-price price rise has drawn in billions in speculative dollars and pushed the national price of gasoline to $3.647, up 3.5 cents from Thursday and the highest level since June 19, 2011.

The gasoline price rise has scared many investors, who fear consumers will do less driving and spend less -- thus putting the economic recovery at risk.

Gold settled down $9.90 to $1,776.40 an ounce. Silver was off 21.8 cents to $35.338 an ounce. Copper (-HG) closed up 5.7 cents to $3.863 a pound.

Interest rates were little changed; the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.983%, down from 1.984% on Thursday. The dollar was lower against major currencies.

The Dow closed with a 0.3% gain for the week, its second in a row and sixth out of the last eight weeks. The S&P 500's 0.3% gain was its second in a row and seventh in eight weeks. The Nasdaq gained 0.5%, also a second weekly gain in a row and seventh in eight weeks.

For the year, the Dow is up 6.3%, with the S&P 500 up 8.6% and the Nasdaq up 13.8%.

Energy prices -- New York close



Fri.

Thur.

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Crude oil (-CL)

$109.77

$107.83

11.46%

11.07%
(per barrel)











Heating oil (-HO)

$3.3130

$3.2900

8.17%

13.68%
(per gallon)











Natural gas (-NG)

$2.5500

$2.6210

1.88%

-14.69%
(per mil. BTU)











Unleaded gasoline (-RB)

$3.3247

$3.2880

15.01%

25.11%
(per gallon)











Brent crude 

$125.47

$123.62

13.06%

16.85%
(per barrel)











Retail gasoline

$3.6470

$3.6120

5.93%

11.32%
(per gallon; AAA)












New-home sales look a little better; consumer confidence rises
The Commerce Department said new-home sales for January came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 321,000, a 3.5% increase over last year. The figure marks a 0.9% decline from December's upwardly revised rate of 324,000, but the level still beat estimates; economists had expected the sales rate to drop to 315,000.

The median sales price was up slightly to $217,000 from December's $216,500. While the January price was still down 9.6% from a year ago, the price was higher for the second month in a row.

The inventory of new homes for sale slipped again to just 5.6 months, the lowest in six years, noted Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics, an economic consulting firm. "Any uptick in demand will be reflected quickly in the new home construction numbers," he said in a note to clients. "We remain of the view that housing is on the verge of a serious volume rebound, but the data are not quite there yet."


But keep in mind that new-home sales are still at near-record-levels after housing boom fueled huge amounts of new construction that simply wasn't needed. 


While economists were chipper about housing, investors were not. Homebuilding stocks were all lower today.

 

Meanwhile, the final University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters index of consumer sentiment for February came in at 75.3, far outpacing a 72.5 reading in January and expectations of a rise to 72.8.

The gains in the jobs picture are helping. "A third of consumers reported hearing positive news about the labor market and job opportunities, the most recorded in the history of the survey," Nomura Securities economist Jeffrey Greenberg said.

In addition, the highest proportion since 2004 expect the national unemployment rate to decline after it fell to 8.26% in the January report.

AIG seems to have stabilized; Salesforce.com sees rapid growth
American International Group rose 42 cents to $28.41. The bailed-out insurer posted a fourth-quarter profit fueled by a tax benefit and an increase in the value of a stake in Asian insurer AIA Group. Operating profit beat analysts’ estimates.

While the outsized fourth-quarter profit was a one-time event linked to a tax accounting change, underlying it was a long-term assumption that the company has stopped its multibillion-dollar crisis-era losses.

"It signifies our view that we have returned to sustainable profitability," Chief Financial Officer David Herzog said on a conference call with analysts.

Salesforce.com's shares jumped $11.87 to $143.64 today, their highest level since August after it reported continued momentum selling its cloud-based business software.

The San Francisco company's better-than-expected fourth-quarter results released late Thursday fueled expectations that its rapid expansion will continue. Salesforce shareholders follow the company's growth rate closely, as the stock's hefty valuation implies high expectations for the company's future.

"At this point, we believe there is every reason to expect Salesforce's fundamental momentum to continue to be quite strong," Canaccord Genuity analysts wrote in a note to clients Friday.

Leaders and laggards
Gap (GPS) retreated 95 cents to $22.57. The largest U.S. apparel chain forecast profit this year that was less than some analysts estimated as sales decline at its Old Navy stores. CEO Glenn Murphy failed to boost holiday sales at Old Navy after introducing a new marketing campaign for the more-than-1,000-store chain during the third quarter.

J.C. Penney (JCP) dropped 21 cents to $41.72. The U.S. department-store chain run by Apple Inc.’s former retail chief posted a fourth-quarter loss on charges to revamp the company. CEO Ron Johnson, who took over in November, is overhauling the retailer’s pricing and store design to revive sales and lure shoppers from Macy’s  and Target.

Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) rose 64 cents to $20.46. The shares fell to as low as $18.79 during the day. The coal producer that bought Massey Energy for $7.1 billion in June posted an unexpected fourth-quarter loss and cut its 2012 output forecast as U.S. electricity generators switched to cheaper natural gas.

Crocs (CROX) fell $1.01 to $19.41. The plastic-clogs maker forecast first-quarter earnings of no more than 26 cents a share, below the 30-cent profit estimated by analysts on average.

Deckers Outdoor (DECK) slid  $12.49 to $77.72 for the biggest decline in the Russell 1000 Index. The maker of Ugg boots and Teva sandals said earnings in 2012 will be unchanged from last year at $5.07 a share, missing the average analyst estimate of $5.80.

Short hits from the markets -- New York close



Fri.

Thur.

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Treasury yields











13-week Treasury bill

0.1000%  0.090%

0.00%  900.00%
5-year Treasury note 

0.894%  0.880%

0.00%  7.71%
10-year Treasury note

1.977%  1.984%

9.89%  5.67%
30-year Treasury bond

3.098%  3.124%

5.59%  7.23%
Currencies











U.S. Dollar Index

78.401  78.886  -1.28%  -2.63%
British pound

1.5893  1.5753  0.67%  2.29%
(in U.S. $)

          
U.S. $ in pounds

£0.629  £0.635  -0.66%  -2.24%
Euro in dollars

$1.35  $1.34  2.45%  3.90%
(in U.S. $)

          
U.S. $ in euros

€ 0.743  € 0.747  -2.39%  -3.76%
U.S. $ in yen 

81.17  79.98  6.17%   5.28%
U.S. $ in Chinese

6.32  6.29  -0.11%  -0.08%
yuan

            
Canada dollar

$1.001  $0.996  -0.01%  2.06%
(in U.S. $)

          
U.S. dollar 

$1.000  $0.996  -0.05%  -2.02%
(in Canadian $)











Commodities

 

 

 

 
Gold (-GC)

$1,776.40

$1,786.30

2.22%

13.38%
(per troy ounce)











Copper (-HG)

$3.863

$3.806

1.93%

12.43%
(per pound)











Silver (-SI)

$35.3380

$35.5560

6.24%

26.59%
(per troy ounce)











Wheat (-ZW)

$6.4125

$6.4100

-3.72%

-1.76%
(per bushel)











Corn (-ZC)

$6.4075

$6.395

0.27%

-0.89%
(per bushel)











Cotton 

$0.9015

0.8923

-4.61%

-1.67%
(per pound)











Coffee

$2.0360

2.0205

-6.61%

-11.34%
(per pound)











Crude oil (-CL)

$109.77

$107.83

11.46%

11.07%
(per barrel)










 

82Comments
Feb 24, 2012 3:44PM
avatar
jacobhalo, oil production is WAY up in the US.  I believe it is actually up 22% for the last year.  That isn't the problem.  Speculators are.  If we tax paper like we tax our labor and production, speculation would go down and stabilize prices.  That isn't going to happen.  The oil companies love speculators.  They make money anyway the speculation goes.  Time for the citizens to profit by taxing speculators who produce nothing!
Feb 24, 2012 3:33PM
avatar

Quoted text:

Crude oil rose $1.01 to $108.84 a barrel on continued speculation that Iranian nuclear tensions will erupt into military action.

 

Here we go again......Speculati​on!!!!!!!!!  Why are we letting these Speculators kill our fragile economy with this game.  If the military action actually happened then rising prices may be understood....but to just think is ludicrous.

 

Maybe we need to do like the Arab world has done lately...have riots & uprising around Wall Street  & Washington in retaliation to astronomical energy costs.  Or better yet, lets as a country start drilling for our own OIL & take care of our own people at home.  Lets become self sufficient & put America to work and stop relying on the insanity in the Middle East & while we are at it cut off all foreign aid & take care of our own.  You will be surprised when we pull the plug how the world will change & it will be for the better of America!!!!!!

Feb 24, 2012 2:39PM
avatar

Here is what I know to be true:

 

Gas is now costing me .60 cents a gallon more than just two weeks ago.

 

I have to clip coupons, meal plan, not eat out to keep food costs controlled.

 

My every day expenses, such as utilities, water, health insurance, etc have gone up. My salary has not.

 

The DOW means nothing to me. It should mean nothing to most people. Our economy WILL NOT get better if people cannot SPEND. Our economy is SPENDING based. I am the 99%. I cannot spend money that I do not have to spend. Anyone with a shred of common sense will know that the economy will not improve any time soon.

 

While I am quite positive that MSN's next article will be on vacation planning with all that PHAT MONEY we all have, I for one am making plans for the financial hurricane coming. What about you all?

Feb 24, 2012 3:50PM
avatar
Someone, if oil production is up, then why are gas prices so steep.  I thought the concept of supply and demand dictated prices.   I don't trust this president.  He is a chronic liar.
Feb 24, 2012 3:40PM
avatar
The gov. doesn't want to drill for oil in this country, which has enough oil to last us 200 years, without importing a drop.  So for those of you tree-huggers who never wanted to drill for oil-pay the price and shut your mouths.
Feb 24, 2012 1:58PM
avatar
Everything is just grand! Don't you read the news?! Never mind some more businiesses are laying people off, eliminating shifts and trimming inventories to the bone. My business dried up about 2 weeks ago. Have to check the phones to see if they are working since they never ring. Junk emails have even slowed down. All is great with our economy, don't let any one tell you different.
Feb 24, 2012 6:54PM
avatar
The gasoline price rise has scared many investors, who fear consumers will do less driving and spend less -- thus putting the economic recovery at risk.

Not likely, gasoline inventories are at the highest levels of the last decade and consumers are using less now than since before the 2008 crash. This is all supported by your great government as they allow the futures speculators to run up the price unabated without a worry as to having to take delivery of the commodity before they sell. That would stop it in it's tracks, too much money lining to many lawmakers pockets to allow that though at your cost. Can them all --- in the fall. We don't need term limits, we need to enact them through voting.

Feb 24, 2012 2:01PM
avatar
 Wall Street cheers about new home sales and rising consumer confidence ?  20 million homes in some stage of default and more coming!  Another 15 million in foreclosure on the lenders zombie shadow inventory ! That will do it for new home sales ! Banking cartel sitting on a trillion dollars of cash reserves stolen from the American people !  SCREW THE PEOPLE !   TO BIG TO FAIL !  TO BIG TO JAIL !! There is your rising consumer confidence. !
Feb 24, 2012 3:56PM
avatar
Speculators speculators.  People on the inside are now beginning to pressure the dollar. This may represent the priming of the inflation pump.  If they can push oil to 140 and hold it then the house of cards will not be able to stand and shazam jimmy carter all  over again.  Massive inflation. 
Feb 24, 2012 3:31PM
avatar
I would just like to know who the hell starts the sell off every time the dow gets close to 13000.  Apparently they are not the people who have 401ks and cannot "time the market"  and lose their retirement money instead of making a pittance.


Feb 24, 2012 6:11PM
avatar
If you want to curb speculation, increase margin requirements.  I still think the Iranians might be backing a lot of the speculators.  If so, it's actually a smart move - create a crisis, then profit from it.  Bringing down the Obama administration would be an added bonus in their eyes.
Feb 24, 2012 2:16PM
avatar
The big investors are keeping the stock market propped up and they will continue to do so.  When all the little fish have joined in and the pool is full, the big fish will pull the plug and jump over into the next secured pool.  The little guys will be left out to dry.
Feb 24, 2012 6:26PM
avatar
The only way you will curb speculation or rub the crystal ball stuff is by taking commodities off the market!  And good luck seeing that happen.  You have to realize that every profit that is made is tax dollars in the States as well as the Fed's pockets!  They will never bite the hand that feeds them.  Talking about speculation the oil companies are the biggest culprits around.  It must be nice to pay your executives millions of dollars and just pass on the expense to the consumer.  And the problem is the product you are selling is needed for everyone to function.  If the oil companies really cared they would reduce these executive salaries and give the american people a break!  But greed has a way of screwing up peoples minds! I'll bet that if you reduced much of the executive staff plus their huge salaries and bonuses the price of gas might be a dollar or a dollar fifty less!  But good luck ever seeing that! Plus if somebody is going to say that they won't be happy then guess what I'm sure you will find plenty of people that would work for them for far less money!  If they don't like the pay cuts then get out of the kitchen!!!!!!!!
Feb 24, 2012 1:49PM
avatar
Sales of new U.S. homes dipped in January but the final quarter of 2011 was stronger than first estimated. The Commerce Department said Friday that new-home sales fell 0.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 321,000 homes. That followed four straight months of gains in which home sales rose 10 percent. Even with more sales, just 304,000 new homes were sold in 2011 — the fewest on records dating back to 1963. And new homes are selling well below the 700,000-per-year rate that economists equate with healthy markets.

 

And this is something to CHEER about. As usual this story has more TWIST than a bag full of pretzels.

Feb 24, 2012 3:35PM
avatar
oil, up up up up up every bubble burst. lets see how high we can get it. dont matter what we think.
Feb 24, 2012 3:14PM
avatar

   Everyone knows here what started this whole down turn of the US economy was surging gas prices which in turn caused everything else to soar sending our economy spiraling downward.

    Now here we are right back in the same situation this time even worse than before and the American government sits by without any effort to try and turn this around knowing the catastrophic damage it will have on our already trembling economy.

   One can only come to the conclusion that the government interest do not lie with the AMERICAN PEOPLE and should therefore be able to answer the question of "WHY" nothing is being done. This country is no longer a priority. Actions speaks louder than words and the AMERICAN government is sending a very loud message to the AMERICAN PEOPLE that "WE DON'T CARE, DEAL WITH IT"!!

avatar
yep the crash is just around the corner folks. Oil going to $150 easy by summer. Gasoline lines and high prices this summer as 1973 repeats. 

AIG showing a profit due to huge government support in the form of a tax rebate. 

Things are worse now then have ever been 

AIG seems to have stabilized; Salesforce.com sees rapid growth
American International Group rose 67 cents to $28.66. The bailed-out insurer posted a fourth-quarter profit fueled by a tax benefit and an increase in the value of a stake in Asian insurer AIA Group. Operating profit beat analysts’ estimates.  
Feb 24, 2012 2:03PM
avatar
Is America, brain dead idiots, in debt far worse than Greece, but everything is awesome. Wall Street is a collection of the true idiots, such as cramer. Americans, Hello wake up! When your begging China for more money to satisfy your instant gratification and they say no, play the Dylan song for yourselves (like a rolling stone.) 
Feb 24, 2012 2:20PM
avatar
Cheer The Rise Of Consumer Confidence ??   yeah right, Cheer at the Angry  customer filling their gas tank and see what you get! 
Cheer the poor attendant that's that's taking the verbal Brunt of the anger! .. Cheer at the people that's having their gas stolen! ...  or at the people that are trying to make ends meet and having to cut back even more!  .. Heck, cheer at the MANY people that's being foreclosed on as we speak! ... Sorry Charley, No Prize today. 
Feb 24, 2012 2:07PM
avatar
When will the governments of the developed world do something about regulating speculation?
Not likely to happen since they are getting rich also!
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