Credit rating agency Standard & Poors upgraded its outlook on the sovereign credit rating for the United States, shifting from an outlook of “negative” to “stable.” the upgrade means that the agency believes the chances of a further downgrade to the nation's AA+ rating is unlikely. In August 2011, S&P reduced its rating on the US from AAA, marking the first time in the nation's history its credit rating has taken a hit. The other two major ratings firms, Moody's and Fitch, have not followed suit with a downgrade, though both have been monitoring recent developments and had placed the nation on notice for possible downgrade.
The Dow Jones approached an all-time high for the third time in two weeks Tuesday as the stock index finished the session at 4,118.7, a mere 179 points from the all-time high set on October 12th, 2007. On February 1st, the Dow finished the trading day at 14,110; and then reached 14,111 during the trading day last Friday. Like the Dow, the S&P 500 finished at a fresh five-year high Tuesday and is just 57 points below its highest level ever, also reached in October 2007. In just the first five weeks of 2013, the Dow and S&P 500 have gained close to 7 percent, while the Nasdaq is sitting on a rise just shy of 6 percent.
The US Department of Justice has informed credit rating agency Standard & Poor's that it will take civil action against it over the role S&P played in the subprime mortgage collapse that fueled the worst economic downturn in the US since the 1930s. In a statement, S&P indicated that DOJ has “informed the Company that it intends to file a civil lawsuit against S&P focusing on its ratings in 2007 of certain U.S. collateralized debt obligations.” The debt obligations DOJ is referring to are securities made up of mortgages, mostly the sort of subprime mortgages considered risky on their own. DOJ asserts. However, that S&P was too generous in its ratings of the mortgage-backed securities considering the frequency with which the mortgages failed.
US stocks enjoyed a strong end to the week Friday as the Dow Jones industrial average finished the session above 14,000 for the first time since October 2007, before the onset of the worst economic downturn in the US since the Great Depression. In fact, at 14,010, the Dow is now just 188 points below its all-time highest close of 14,198 set on October 12th, 2007. The S&P 500, meanwhile, also finished at its highest level since 2007 and is about 4 percent shy of its highest level ever. The Nasdaq enjoyed a 1.2 percent upswing on Friday, but is still well below historical highs.
The latest data continues to support that the housing market is recovering. Out of the 20-city home index, only one city (New York posted a small decline) did not post a gain. The Phoenix real estate market, who was one of the worst hit in the country, experienced the largest gain jumping almost 23%. Other large gains were seen by the San Francisco real estate market, up 12.7% and the Detriot market, up 11.9%.
Chairman of the index committe at S&P Dow Jones Indices, David Blitzer commented, “Housing is clearly recovering....Prices are rising as are both new and existing home sales. These figures confirm that housing is contributing to economic growth.”
Home prices also increased for the 10-city home index when compared month-to-month, where San Francisco, Phoenix and Minneapolis saw the largest gains.
On October 19th, 1987, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 500 points, marking the single worst one day slide in the blue-chip index's history. On the 25th anniversary of that woeful day known ever since as Black Monday, the Dow slipped another 200 points. Friday's slide was only about 1.5 percent, compared to the 22 percent decline on Black Monday, but was still a painful reminder for equities traders that their portfolios can be slashed in value in a single day. Friday's losses, much like those from earlier this week, were fueled by a series of disappointing corporate earnings, led by weak economy safe haven McDonalds and powerhouse conglomerate General Electric.
US stocks rose sharply on Wednesday, led by the tech sector, as investors received a string of mostly positive corporate earnings reports and testimony delivered to Congress from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. While Bernanke's outlook on the economy was slightly downbeat, what investors took from it was that the likelihood of a third round of quantitative easing seems even more likely.
Stellar earnings from JP Morgan Chase drove the first rally of the week on Friday as the Dow posted its biggest gain since late June. All three major US indexes erased the week's declines on the day. JP Morgan's per share earnings of $1.21 smashed Wall Street expectations of 70 cents a share in earnings, overshadowing the bank's revelation that the massive trading loss first announced as $2 billion in May turned into $5.8 billion. Another factor in Friday's rally, economists noted, is that China's second-quarter growth rate decelerated sharply, but not as sharply as some had feared.
US stocks posted substantial losses on Friday, giving back all of their gains from earlier in the week, as investors reacted to a hugely disappointing reading on the US labor market. Early in Friday's session, the Labor Dept. reported that the economy gained just 80,000 jobs in June, well below economists expectations and a warning sign for the economy as a whole. In the holiday-shortened trading week, stock fell slightly on Monday and made gains on Tuesday and Thursday before giving them back on Friday.
US stocks were mixed Wednesday as all three indexes slumped late in the session after the Federal Reserve's decision to expand Operation Twist was poorly received by investors, who had hoped for a third round of quantitative easing, or QE3. Operation Twist, in which the Treasury swaps short-term notes on its balance sheet for longer-term bonds, was scheduled to expire June 30th, but will now continue through the end of the year. Investors had been hoping for a third round of Treasury purchases designed to stimulate borrowing by lowering interest rates.