On Tuesday, the S&P 500 index (SPX) gained slightly yet this benchmark index closed at a record level for the second time in 2015. This came after it was reported in The Wall Street Journal that Greece may now request an extension for six months on its debt obligations on Wednesday. As the trading session closed, the SPX had added 0.2 percent, or 3.35 points, to 2,100.34, marking gains for the 3rd consecutive session which were led by financial and health-care stocks. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index (COMP) also closed the day on the upside after adding 0.1%, or 5.43 points, to 4,899.27 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed 0.2%, or 28.23 points, higher at 18,047.58. This placed the index at less than ten points from its record close. Despite the record gains among U.S. stocks, there is a clear indication that there is still a lot of uncertainty among investors which was seen by a rise of 8 percent to 15.79 on the CBOE Vix which measures implied volatility.
In currency trading on Tuesday, the U.S. dollar (USD) gained slightly against other major currencies. As a result of poor New York manufacturing data which prompted concerns regarding the strength of economic recovery in the U.S., the greenback remained under pressure. According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the general business conditions index dropped from a reading of 10.0 in January to 7.8 in February, while analysts were only expecting a decline to 8.5 this month. Also, according to a report by the National Association of Home Builders, the HMI (Housing Market Index) dropped from 57.0 in January to 55.0 in February, marking a 4-month low. Analysts were expecting an increase in February to 58.0. In currency trading, the EUR/USD traded at 1.1390, up 0.32, after a report from the ZEW Centre for Economic Research reported that the German economic sentiment increased from Januaryâ€™s reading of 48.4 points to 53.0 in February. This marked the highest reading since February last year despite being below the expected level of 55.0. Meanwhile, the GBP/USD traded at 1.5319, down 0.30% while the USD/JPY traded at 119.05, up 0.48%. Against the currencies in New Zealand and Australia, the USD traded mixed with NZD/USD up 0.09% at 0.7509 while AUD/USD traded at 0.7793, down 0.29%. Also, the U.S. dollar index was at 94.32, down 0.14 percent.
On Tuesday, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, -0.01% BRK.A, +0.33%), which is controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett, revealed in a filing that the company had sold off its entire stake in Exxon Mobil (XOM, -0.46%) during the fourth quarter. According to the regulatory 13H filings, Berkshire no longer held the 41,129,643 shares of Exxon held on the 30th of September. At the same time, Berkshire Hathaway confirmed that the company had added a new share stake in Deere & Co. (DE, +1.53%) which is well known for manufacturing construction, forestry and agricultural machinery. As of the 31st of December, Berkshire also enlarged its stake in IBM Corp. (IBM, +0.35%) from 70,478,012 shares on the 30th of September to 76,971,817 shares as of the 31st of December 2014. Also, its stake in MasterCard Inc. (MA, -0.01%) expanded from 4.7 million shares to 5.4 million shares while Berkshire also boosted its stake in Visa Inc. (V, -0.07%) from 2.15 million shares to 2.5 million shares. Buffett maintained his share in his largest holding which is Wells Fargo (WFC, +0.05%) at 463.5 million, as well as in Goldman Sachs (GS, +0.54%) at 12.6 million, American Express (AXP, +0.03%) at 151.6 million and Coca-Cola (KO, -0.02%) at 400 million.
In Asian trading on Wednesday, crude oil prices fell. Trading was thin due to the Lunar New Year holidays while stock data from the American Petroleum Institute might be delayed today due to a snow storm in Washington. Crude oil for April delivery traded at $53.97 a barrel, down 0.20 percent on the NYMEX. On Tuesday, Brent oil for delivery in April dropped to trade at $60.61 a barrel, down 80 cents on the ICE Futures Exchange in London. The weekly report from the Department of Energy in the U.S. which is due out today has also been delayed. According to Baker Hughes, an industry research group, the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. had declined to its lowest level since August 2011, down to 1,056 rigs.