For the 2nd straight session, U.S. stocks closed higher on Tuesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) climbing more than 300 points. This climb came in response to surging crude oil prices which advanced 7 percent, boosting energy shares. Merger activity, upbeat monthly car sales data in the U.S. as well as positive developments in Greece debt negotiations added to positive investor confidence. There was also very little market reaction to the poor factory orders data after a report showed that manufacturing activity in the U.S. had slowed down in December, dropping 3.4 percent to mark its 5th straight decline. At the close of U.S. trading, the DJIA gained 1.8 percent, or 305.36 points, to 17,666.40. All 30 of the indexâ€™s members ended in the green and the increase marked the biggest gain in more than 3 weeks. Also on the upside was the S&P 500 index (SPX) which closed up 1.4%, or 29.15 points, to 2,050. Following the upward trend was the Nasdaq Composite index (COMP) which gained 1.1%, or 51.05 points, at 4,727.74.
On Wednesday, in Asian trading, the Japanese yen (JPY) dropped after key reports out of China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The USD/JPY traded at 117.89, up 0.25% while AUD/USD traded at 0.7802, up 0.12 percent. Meanwhile, the New Zealand dollar (NZD) fell earlier in the day on poor unemployment data but then recovered after the Royal Bank of New Zealand stated that there would be no change in the official cash rate. The NZD/USD traded at 0.7403, up 0.63 percent. In data released yesterday in Japan, preliminary wages in December rose 1.6 percent which met expectations while also marking the 10th straight gain. In data out of New Zealand, the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter increased to 5.7 percent. This was higher than the expected drop from 5.4% in the 3rd-quarter to 5.3 percent. Meanwhile in China, the HSBC services PMI for January came in at 51.8. This was below the expected 52.8 while the AIGroup services index in Australia rose to 49.9, up 2.4 points and close to expansion territory. According to the National Australia bank, 4th-quarter business confidence came in at +2, down from +6 in the 3rd-quarter.
In the extended trading session on Tuesday, the shares of Walt Disney Co. (DIS, +3.83%) rose to $97.90, up 4 percent. This came after the company reported earnings which far exceeded Wall Street estimates. The media and entertainment giant reported fiscal first quarter revenue of $13.4 billion and earnings of $1.27 a share. This beat estimates for revenue of $12.87 billion and only $1.07 a share. The results in the year-earlier period were boosted by merchandise sales after the release of the blockbuster animated movie â€˜Frozenâ€™. Price increases at Walt Disneyâ€™s theme parks and increased sales at Disney Stores also positively impacted the earnings results. In the latest period, Media Networks, which is Disney's biggest unit, posted revenue of $5.86, up 11 percent. The revenue for resorts and parks also increased to $3.91 billion, up 9 percent. This year, Disney will release a live-action adaptation of â€˜Cinderellaâ€™ as well as the first â€˜Star Warsâ€™ under the Disney brand.
On Wednesday, in Asian trading, oil prices fell again after rebounding on Tuesday. This came as high stock levels and renewed investor concerns regarding global supply and demand stopped the rally which has pushed crude oil prices up almost 19% over the last 4 sessions. This recent rebound was prompted by investor hopes that oil prices had hit a bottom after declining almost 60% over the last 7 months. By 0336 GMT on Wednesday, Brent crude traded at $57.41 a barrel, down 50 cents after gaining 6 percent on Tuesday. Meanwhile, U.S. crude traded at $52.10 a barrel, down 95 cents after the contract settled 7% higher in Tuesdayâ€™s session.