Good Greece. Bad Iran



Weekly Update – February 20, 2012


Despite a turbulent week filled with mixed news from Europe and rising Middle East tensions, stocks closed higher on hopes that Chinese assistance would mean a bailout plan for Greece. The S&P 500 closed at 1361.23, a level not seen in nearly a year, having gained 8.2% so far in 2012. Other major indexes also rose for the week, the Dow advancing 1.2% and the Nasdaq climbing 1.7%.[i] 


In not-so-great news, crude oil prices rose for a third straight day on U.S. markets Friday, topping $103 a barrel, sparked by increased saber rattling from Iran over its nuclear energy policies. A sustained surge in prices could weigh on the global economic recovery. Drivers are seeing the effect at the pump, with gas prices up by 0.9% since January, topping $3.50 a gallon in many places. Every added penny at the gas pump diverts roughly $1 billion in consumer spending away from other sectors of the economy.[ii] 


Thankfully, inflation isn’t looking bad overall. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) only rose 0.02% in January, which was in line with expectations. The Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, also matched expectations, gaining 0.02%. Year-over-year gains were 2.9% for the general CPI and 2.3% for the Core CPI. If overall inflation was higher, economic growth could be threatened by rising prices, and the Fed would likely respond by raising interest rates. The Fed’s statement following the January FOMC report described price pressures as “subdued”, and indicated that they plan to keep rates low until at least late 2014.[iii] 


In simple English, last week was really a mixed bag. While we are happy with the stock market’s performance, progress in Europe, and low inflation, unrest in the Middle East is a wild card. Every time bad news out of that region hits headlines, speculators drive gas prices through the roof. At this point, all we can do is monitor the situation, hoping that with diplomatic pressure, Iran will listen to reason.



U.S. Markets closed for President’s Day


Existing Home Sales  

Jobless Claims, FHFA Housing Price Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report



Consumer Sentiment, New Home Sales

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