STOCKS EKE OUT GAINS: Here's What You Need To Know

Davos securityREUTERS/Ruben SprichThe World Economic Forum at Davos is this week.

Stocks eked out gains on Tuesday after spending much of the day in negative territory, though stocks managed to move into positive territory in the final couple hours of trading. Last week, stocks gained ground only one time and finished lower for the fourth straight week.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,515.2, +3.6, (+0.02%)
  • S&P 500: 2,022.5, +3.1, (+0.1%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,654.8, +20.5, (+0.4%)

And now, the top stories on Tuesday:

1. It was all about oil again on Tuesday. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell as much as 5% on Tuesday to as low as $US46.50 a barrel after last week WTI saw its first weekly gain in almost two months. And as the price of crude has dropped, Business Insider’s Mike Bird noted that oil traders have begun stashing crude oil in offshore tankers with plans to sell the oil back when prices rise later.

2. Oil services company Baker Hughes announced that the number of US oil rigs in use could drop as much as 60% before the current downturn in rig use is over, and the company also announced it will cut 7,000 jobs in the first quarter as the effects of lower oil are starting to make their way into the energy sector.

3. In addition to oil, the market is still digesting the impact of last week’s volatile currency action set off by the Swiss National Bank’s decision to remove the franc’s 1.20 peg against the euro, with Credit Suisse and Saxo Bank saying that their earnings will be effected by the move. And speaking more candidly, at least one analyst told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that the SNB’s decision wasn’t like a bomb in the market, but more like a ‘nuclear explosion.’ And as the market continues to digest this decision and the after-effects, John Stoltzfus at Oppenheimer reminded clients that while the SNB’s decision was a shot, there are likely even more surprises ahead.

4. The big market event this week is set for Thursday, as the European Central Bank will announce its latest monetary policy decision, with it widely expected that the ECB will announce a quantitative easing program. Kit Juckes at Societe Generale noted that the results of a recent client survey show that about 70% of the 176 clients polled expect the ECB will announce Qe this week.

5. Earnings seasons is rolling along, with reports expected from Netflix and IBM after the market close on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, international conglomerate Unilever gave a downbeat outlook for 2015, with Unilever CEO Paul Polman saying in an earnings announcement that the company faced “significant headwinds” and “weak markets” in 2014, conditions it does not expect it will improve in 2015.

6. Morgan Stanley was the latest big US bank to announce earnings, coming up short of expectations on Tuesday as earnings included a number of items and charges, included an adjustment for elevated compensation expense on deferral adjustments and a $US284 million legal charge. And these legal charges, which were supposed to eventually go away after the financial crisis, seem to be hanging around far longer than many likely expected.

7. On the economic data front, the latest homebuilder sentiment index from the National Association of Home Builders showed that homebuilder confidence remains elevated, though this measure did retreat some in January, to 57 from a revised reading of 58 in December.

8. The fourth quarter letter from David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital surfaced on Tuesday, and the letter showed that Einhorn has a new position in Time Warner and that Einhorn took a small position in Irish drugmaker Shire after the company’s deal to be acquired by AbbVie was scrapped in the fall.

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