By Carlos Guillen
Equity markets are continuing to make slow but consistent moves to the upside as earnings season unfolds, bringing with it a significant number of companies that have delivered better than expected financial results so far.
Clearly some of the major players that have brought some excitement to today's trading session have been McDonald, Google, and IBM, all of which beat the Street's earnings forecasts significantly. This is lifting the Dow Jones Industrial Average to levels not seen since right before the recession began over five years ago.
However, there is still the debt ceiling situation lurking in the background. Later today, Congressional House members will vote whether or not to suspend enforcement of the country's $16.4 trillion debt limit until May 18. If approved, it would buy Congress three months to finally negotiate a budget proposal with fewer impending deadlines. To help ensure a budget agreement is finally reached, the proposed legislation includes a provision that the GOP is calling "no budget, no pay." It requires the Senate to pass a budget by mid-April or face a suspension of pay. As for the debt ceiling, it would automatically reset to a new level on May 19. Additional spending incurred from now until May 19 would be included.
Also a bit concerning was that the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast and now projects a second year of contraction in the euro region as progress in battling Europe's debt crisis fails to produce an economic recovery. The new forecast has the world economy expanding 3.5 percent this year, less than the 3.6 percent forecasted back in October. The fund now sees the 17-country euro area shrinking 0.2 percent in 2013, instead of growing 0.2 percent as estimated in October.
Despite some possible obstacles, stocks still remain on a solid uptrend, with the Dow now gaining over 70 points, or over 0.5 percent. After the closing bell Apple will report earnings results for its December quarter, and this will certainly shake markets tomorrow.