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Oil Rebound Helps Stocks Seal Their First Positive Week of the Year

Oil rebound and hopes of stimulus in the euro zone and Japan cheered investors.
Image: New York Stock Exchange
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading day. JUSTIN LANE / EPA

U.S. stocks closed higher Friday, for their first positive week of the year, helped by a recovery in oil from multiyear lows and hopes of stimulus overseas.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 210.83 points, or 1.33 percent; the S&P 500 rose 37.91 points, or 2.03 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index finished 119.12 points higher, or 2.66 percent.

Crude prices, still under pressure from a global glut, settled at $32.19 a barrel, up $2.66, or 9 percent. Analysts said freezing conditions and snowstorms boosted short-term demand for heating oil and traders cashed in their short positions.

The U.S. stock market had failed to sustain any rallies this year as risk-averse investors searched for signs of stability. Even with the up week, the major U.S. averages were down about 7 percent or more for the year.

"I don't think anybody really expected to see this kind of rout in global equities at the start of the year," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida. "At some point, you do shake all the bad blood out and that's what I think the last couple of days were about."

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However, concerns about a crude glut and a tepid demand outlook beyond the winter remain. Rating agency Moody's put 120 energy firms across the world on review for downgrades.

Markets drew some comfort Thursday from European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi pledge that the bank is prepared to take action as early as its next meeting in March to expand existing stimulus efforts.

Market speculation also is growing that the Bank of Japan may expand its stimulus program as soon as its rate review on Jan. 28-29, when the central bank is also seen likely to cut core consumer inflation forecasts.

Traders also are focused on the U.S. Federal Reserve, with expectations rife of the central bank slowing the pace of further rate hikes as it accounts for a weak global economy and inflation remains well below its 2 percent target.

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On the U.S. economic data front, the National Association of Realtors reported that home resales rebounded strongly in December from a 19-month low and prices surged, indicating the housing market recovery remained intact. Existing home sales jumped a record 14.7 percent to an annual rate of 5.46 million units, after being temporarily held back by the introduction of new mortgage disclosure rules, which had caused delays in the closing of contracts in November, it said.

Meanwhile, home rental price growth turned tame in December — suggesting that a burst of new apartment construction last year may be relieving cost pressures.

Fourth-quarter earnings reports are likely to offer little cheer, with S&P 500 companies on average expected to post a 4.5 percent decline in profit, according to Thomson Reuters data.