Mood of Cautious Optimism for Week Ahead on Wall Street

Following last week’s unexpected Wall Street rally, the mood among stock market traders as they face a new week may be best described as one of cautious optimism. The Dow rose by 597.04 points to 7,223.98, while the S&P 500 gained 73.17 pointsto 756.55, being a 9 percent and 10.7 percent increase respectively. The increase has been attributed to a number of factors, including retail sales figures that were better than expected and encouraging results from General Electric, Bank of America, General Motors and Pfizer – all Dow components. However, it was likely the news from Citigroup that it had traded profitably for January and February that played the biggest role in the rally, as short sellers – who had anticipated that Wall Street would keep falling – were sent scurrying to buy stocks back.

The coming week will see the release of economic reports that are unlikely to show any significant improvement, but the general consensus is that the market is likely to respond positively if the data reveals that the U.S. economy is at least not deteriorating any further. Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. will be releasing earnings reports this week, including Oracle Corp, Nike Inc. and Discover Financial Services. The February report on industrial production will be release by the Fed on Monday, with the Labor Department delivering its February producer price index on Tuesday, followed by its consumer price index on Wednesday, while the weekly jobless claims report will be available on Thursday. The Federal Reserve will be holding a two-day meeting ending Wednesday, where the state of the U.S. economy will be assessed, and in light of the fact that its federal funds rate is already set at a range of zero to 0.25 percent, it is expected that interest rates will be held steady.

Stock market traders have had to deal with wave after wave of bad news, and it appears that the markets may be absorbing the negatives a little better than when the economy first took a turn for the worse. Many have accepted that the economy is unlikely to improve drastically in this year, but are hopeful for a turnaround in 2010. This cautious optimism was echoed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in an interview with CBS where he noted that his department believes the risk of an American depression has been averted, the recession will ease off by the end of this year and economic recovery would gain ground in 2010.