Stocks rallied off their morning lows and the market is currently trading near its high for the session. Yet gains are mild. Among the major averages the small cap index is showing the most strength with the Russell 2000 hitting levels not seen since September 2008 around the 700 mark. Sadly the debt crisis in Greece is still an issue in spite of the "solution" hammered out in late March. If the weakness in the Greek bond market is any indication then investors are not convinced the country can pull out of its debt spiral. Meanwhile a bounce in the U.S. dollar has put the brakes on any commodity rally. Copper prices shot up to a 20-month high intraday before settling lower at $3.611 a pound. Crude oil futures are down about 20 cents near $86.42 a barrel. Gold futures are up just under $2 near $1,135 an ounce.
Tuesday turned out to be a pretty quiet day in Asia. The Japanese NIKKEI erased yesterday's gains with a 0.5% decline. The Chinese and Hong Kong markets opened after the Easter holiday. The Shanghai index closed virtually unchanged up +0.02%. The Hang Seng index rallied 1.4% for its fifth gain in the last six trading sessions.
European markets reopened from the Easter holiday and started off with a bang before swooning into negative territory after lunchtime. Fortunately traders bought the dip and stocks closed in the green. Greece remains at the top of the headlines. Greek bonds plunged for the third day in a row with yields on the Greek 10-year bond hitting 7.2% intraday. The spread between Greek 10-yr bonds and similar German issues has widened to 406 basis points (4.06%), which is the widest ever since the introduction of the euro ten years ago.
There was a story out this morning that Greece was trying to renegotiate the rescue plan that emerged from the two-day meeting by EU finance ministers in Brussels several days ago. Greece's finance minister denied any such claim. Investors are worried that Greece will be unable to raise money on the open markets. The country needs to roll over 20 billion euros worth of debt by the end of May and 54 billion euros worth of debt this year. By the close of business today the main Greek stock market index fell 2.2%. The French CAC-40 rose +0.49%. The German DAX is up 0.27%. The English FTSE rallied 0.6%.
Here at home it's been a relatively slow news day. There was some good news in the retail sector. The International Council of Shopping Centers said retail sales in March may have risen by 10% thanks to warm weather and an earlier Easter holiday than last year. Elsewhere investors were following the action in the U.S. bond markets. The Treasury department sold $40 billion in three-year notes but demand was weaker than last month's auction. Investors are keeping a wary eye on the rising yield on the 10-year bond. Traders are also waiting on the release of the minutes from the last FOMC meeting in March, which should hit the wires this afternoon.
The FCC has suffered a setback in their "net neutrality" case. The FCC is arguing that all Internet traffic should be treated the same. The big cable companies who own the networks are arguing that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate how these companies treat the data flow over their lines. The concern here is that telephone and cable operators could use their control over the Internet to favor certain content over others. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the FCC this morning.
In other news shares of coal mine operator Massey Energy (MEE) are down more than 10% to $49 a share. The company suffered an explosion at one of its mines in West Virginia. They suspect a methane gas explosion has killed up to 25 coal miners, making it the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984.
In just the last few minutes we are seeing some relative strength in the NASDAQ composite, which has rallied to new 52-week highs past the March peak. The Russell 2000 index is also showing some strength with a move past the 700 level. The transportation index looks ready to breakout past its March high. Banking stocks are some of the market's best performers today with the BKX and BIX banking indices up more than 2% each.
Chart of the S&P 500:
Chart of the NASDAQ:
Chart of the Dow Industrials:
Chart of the Russell 2000 index: