U.S. stocks closed higher Tuesday, with the S&P 500 Index hitting a record high, following reports that Greece intends to ask eurozone finance ministers for an extension to its bailout program Wednesday. The reports also helped boost the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average above the psychologically important 18,000 level for the second time this year.
The Dow, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, added 28.23 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 18,047.58; the S&P 500 index gained 3.35 points, or 0.16 percent, to end at a record closing high of 2,100.34; and the Nasdaq Composite rose 5.43 points, or 0.11 percent, to finish at 4,899.27.
Stocks Rally Following Optimism On Greece
Financial markets in the U.S. initially dipped in early trading Tuesday after global fears escalated after Greece and eurozone finance ministers failed to reach an agreement over the country’s debt program a day earlier. Failure to reach an agreement would risk national bankruptcy as Greece's bailout package expires at the end of the month. However, U.S. stocks edged higher in afternoon trading after reports said Greece intends to ask for an extension to its debt agreement with the eurozone Wednesday, a source in Brussels told Reuters. Following the report, the S&P 500 hit an all-time intraday high of 2,101.30.
Oil Prices Jump to Highest Point of 2015
Oil prices closed higher Tuesday, with global crude prices jumping to $63 a barrel, its highest level since Dec. 18. The move higher was driven by the sharp drop in the number of rigs drilling and threats to crude production from turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.
Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, rose 1.8 percent Tuesday to close at $62.53 a barrel for April 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, added 1.4 percent to close at $53.53 a barrel for March 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Awaiting FOMC Minutes, Inflation, Housing Starts
Economists are looking ahead to Wednesday, when the U.S. Federal Reserve releases its latest minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting last month. Investors will be eyeing the report to see whether the FOMC hinted at when the central bank will begin raising interest rates, which are currently at historic lows. Most economists expect to see a hike in rates in mid-2015.
The Commerce Department will release housing starts Wednesday, which is considered to be a critical indicator of U.S. economic strength in the housing sector. Also on Wednesday, the Department of Labor will issue January's Producer Price Index, which measures prices paid to firms for their goods and services, after prices charged by U.S. companies fell in December by the most in three years.