Equity markets got off to a choppy start as major indexes oscillated between minor gains and losses throughout the first trading day of the week. Investor sentiment turned for the worst on Monday as resurfacing Greek debt woes brought the limelight onto the debt burdened currency bloc once again. Stocks tipped to the downside as the U.S. dollar appreciated in the currency markets. The S&P 500 led the way lower with a 0.25% loss on the day, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average proved most resilient, shedding only 0.05%.
Gains were sparse on Monday as investors digested mixed economic news on all fronts. At home, investors rejoiced over the latest personal income data, which came in at 0.5%, beating the previous reading of 0.1%. On the other hand, consumer discretionary stocks fell as consumer spending in the U.S. came to a standstill; the latest report showed that consumer spending was unchanged over the last month, falling short of estimates, and coming in below the previous reading of 0.1%. Gold prices were stuck in a rut all day. Futures for the precious yellow metal drifted lower as the trading session drew to a close, settling near $1,730 an ounce.
The Barclays iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) was one of the best performers, gaining 3.03% on the day, bolstered by lackluster data releases on the home front, coupled with concerning developments in the eurozone. Uncertainty resurfaced overseas after Greek officials rejected a proposal by Germany that would grant the EU veto power over Athens' spending plans. Selling pressures in European equity markets spilled over onto Wall Street as weakness in the euro gave way to profit-taking across the board.
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The Vanguard European ETF (VGK) was one of the worst performers, shedding 1.59% on the day. Yields on Italian and Portuguese bonds soared as Greek-German debt negotiations intensified in Brussels. Delays in finalizing Greece’s aid program added to the cloud of uncertainty looming over the financially fragile currency bloc. Carl Weinberg, chief economist and founder of High Frequency Economics, commented, “They’re talking about a treaty for European fiscal integration, which will do a lot of good two or three years from now when it finally gets implemented. But it won’t help the current circumstances. And they don’t really have anything of traction to say about Greece."
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