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ASX opens flat, Dow sprints to the finish line

Markets have bounced around constantly over the past few days. Overnight Tuesday in the U.S. was no exception.

 

Despite a steady decline during Valentine’s Day market hours, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) rebounded late and surged 80 points in the last half-hour of trading. The Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC) also finished higher, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) , off 0.09%, just wasn’t feeling the love.

Here in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 (INDEX: ^AXJO) is largely flat, with winners like Westfield Group (ASX: WDC), Perpetual Limited (ASX: PPT) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) being offset by losers including Primary Health Care (ASX: PRY), Aquarius Platinum Limited (ASX: AQP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO).

What’s the story? The Dow erased some of its early losses when Greece made amends and delivered a late but well-received bouquet of flowers in the form of austerity promises. All right, so it sounds less romantic than a candlelit dinner on the island of Santorini, but we can’t get too greedy at this point. After all, Athens is currently engaged in a long-winded negotiation to right a ship that’s barely staying afloat.

If anything, this tense relationship between Greece and its European neighbors will cause many more lovers’ quarrels, as Greece’s debts amount to one and a half times its entire economy. That’s a lot of baggage, and the delicate process of rescuing this country will weigh heavily on the economies of Europe and the United States.

The U.S. economy has its own set of issues to worry about, and the Commerce Department’s disclosure of retail sales was a bit of a mixed shopping bag. Despite concern that sales would dip following the holidays, January proved rather robust and helped lift major retailer Wal-Mart  (NYSE: WMT) about 0.7% on the day. However, there’s still the issue of scaling down debt on the consumer front, which will remain a delicate balance going forward.

Overall, the Valentine’s Day market roller-coaster resembles that of any long-term relationship. There will be some ups and downs along the way, which is why many of our investors have fallen in love with dividend stocks. Find one such ASX company in The Motley Fool’s Top Stock For 2012.  The free report could match you with the best dividend stock for your portfolio, so download it now.


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