U.S. and World News
- After unsuccessful meetings this week in Brussels, Belgium, European finance ministers put off decisions on Greece’s bailout terms until they reconvene next week. Greece is trying to negotiate a €10 billion bridge loan to keep the country solvent as it works with its creditors. Greek officials are promising they will make every effort to reach an agreement on conditions for a new support program although new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to vow to roll back austerity measures in the country, jeopardizing its ability to renegotiate.
- A ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine has been reached and will begin on February 15th. This was the result of a 17 hour meeting between leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. The new deal revives a failed September agreement and includes commitments from each side to pull back heavy weapons. Should this agreement fail, many Western nations are considering increased sanctions against Russia.
- Sweden has joined the fray when it comes to central bank easing as its Riksbank cut its repo rate into negative territory, down to -0.1%. Riksbank also announced a 10 billion kronor ($1.2 billion) quantitative easing program in which the bank will purchase Swedish government bonds.
- Equity markets continued to rally this week, with the S&P 500 gaining 2.09% and closing at a new All-Time High of 2,097. Likewise, the Dow Jones gained 1.26% and closed at 18,019. Year to date, the S&P and Dow Jones are up 2.11% and 1.47%.
- Yields in the Treasury markets continued to creep upwards this week. The 10 year Treasury bond now yields 2.04% and the 5 year Treasury bond yields 1.53%.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil continued to rise from very low levels, gaining 1.64% and closing at $52.54 per barrel. In 2015, WTI Oil prices have fallen 2.16%.
- The spot price of Gold fell by 0.35% this week and closed at $1,229.66 per ounce. Year to date, gold prices are up 3.82%.
- Initial jobless claims increased from last week, coming in at 304,000 vs. consensus estimates of 287,000. The Labor Department noted that some states had to have their claims estimated due to severe weather. The four week moving average for claims now stands at 289,750.
- Headline retail sales declined 0.8% in January, more than the 0.4% decline that was expected. The drop was largely due to a 9.3% drop in gasoline station sales due to lower prices. This indicates that consumers are not yet spending the savings they’ve been enjoying at the gas pump, but this is not terribly surprising as oil price declines have historically affected the economy with a lag.
Fact of the Week
- According to the Treasury Department, the average interest rate paid by the US government on the country’s interest-bearing debt has fallen by more than half over the last 8 years, dropping from 5.03% at the end of 2006 to 2.37% at the end of 2014.
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