For the first time since 2008, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index surpassed 1,400 points to close Thursday’s U.S. stock market session at 1,402.60. The last time the index, which is comprised of 500 stocks, closed above the 1,400 level was back in May of 2008; nearly four years ago.
Following the U.S. financial crisis that transpired in late 2008 and extended into 2009, the S&P 500 index had fallen to lows of 683.38 but have rebounded more than 100% since then. Year To Date, the index is up 11.53% from its December 30th closing level of 1,257.60 points.
In an article published Thursday by CNN Money, Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research, reported that “the economic data has dramatically improved over the last couple of months. The jobs numbers are gradually getting better, and that’s the most important factor for the economy and stock market.”
Detrick is referring to figures recently published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which show an improving employment situations for Americans in a number of key sectors including Professional and Business Services, Health Care, Leisure and Hospitality and Mining. The monthly unemployment rate is 8.3% and the economy gained over 200,000 during the month of February according to the official report.
Strong jobs numbers have buoyed the market indices and increased optimism to spark another broad based rally which has the Dow Jones Industrial Average index closing above 13,250 points and the NASDAQ Composite at a 10-year high of 3,056 – a level unseen since the Dot.Com bubble at the turn of the century.
Greece Debt Deal
The fact that Greece was able to reach a deal with its creditors to negotiate a reduced rate for previously held bonds has also contributed heavily to the market surge. The country was able – at least for now – to avoid a “hard” default on its sovereign debt by convincing its debt holders to take a significant haircut on the amount of money they were owed. The old bonds were swapped for new coupons which will pay out less than half of their original face value with an average interest payment rate below 4 percent.
S&P 500 Charts
Below are the Year To Date and 5 Year charts for the S&P 500 index.
What’s Next for the U.S. Economy?
Several analysts have taken to the mainstream television and radio airwaves to express their surprise at how well the major U.S. indices have performed so far in 2012. However, it is uncertain if the trend will continue, especially leading up to the November general presidential election between current President Barack Obama and his Republican contender.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum appear to be the front runners in the Republican primary process with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul still competing in the race. The winner of the Republican primaries will be formally decided in late August in Tampa, Florida at the Republican National Convention; but the party could already have their candidate informally nominated before then.
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