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Photo: US Army IMCOM / flickr

Stocks were in the red for most of the day.  But in the final few seconds, the Dow squeaked out a gain.First the scoreboard:

Dow: 14,450, +2.7 pts, +0.0 per cent
S&P 500: 1,552, -3.7 pts, -0.2 per cent
NASDAQ: 3,242, -10.5 pts, -0.3 per cent

And now the top stories:

  • There was no major economic data or earnings announcements to move markets today.  So it’s no surprise that the markets didn’t do much.
  • At a conference today, Wal-Mart CFO Charles Holley said that a sales slowdown in late January and early February was not as disastrous as some recently leaked emails suggested.  He noted that the slowdown was primarily due to delayed tax returns and that sales normalized by the end of February. 
  • We now have a new most bullish strategist on Wall Street: Jefferies’ Sean Darby.  “We are lifting our year-end index target for the S&P 500 to 1,673 from 1,565 last calculated on December 17, 2012,” wrote Darby in a note to clients.  “Better-than-expected 4Q earnings and forward guidance, a broadening in the earnings base, ongoing share buybacks and continuous rotation out of fixed income ought to keep US equities well bid.”  Darby’s year-end price target is the highest of any major strategist we can think of.
  • NYU finance Professor Aswath Damodaran said the stock market was in a sweet spot, citing some of the same points Darby made.  However, he is worried about one thing. “One of my biggest worries is that economic growth comes back,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s Scott Wapner. “Interest rates will go up.  No matter what the Fed wants to believe it can do, if economic growth comes back, interest rates will go up”
  • According to data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, hedge funds have recently poured money into stocks.  Meanwhile, the private investor has been pulling out.
  • Don’t Miss: THE CHINA SEVEN: The Huge Megatrends That Will Define China’s Next Decade >

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