Robert Shiller says stocks, bonds and real estate all look expensive. So what's an investor to do?» Read More
Earnings season is in full swing, bringing hopes that the global economy may be on the road to full recovery. Early returns suggest that investors are slowly starting to buy into the scenario that better days lie ahead, unwinding some trades put on at the apex of market pessimism.
To be certain, the jury remains deadlocked over whether the global economy has completely turned a corner. The U.S.'s struggles to resolve its debt troubles loom large in the minds of most investors, while Western Europe still hasn't found a permanent solution to what ails its debt-saddled and withered peripheral countries.
Still, the euro has spiked to its highest level in nearly a year against the dollar, while interest rates in Italy and Spain – the locus of the market's fears about a euro zone fracturing –have fallen by more than two full percentage points. On Friday, ten-year Spanish government yields traded close to 5 percent after surging to euro era highs at 7.75 percent in July.
"What you're getting is a lot of Europe-positive sentiment from the Europeans, which frankly…I would not have expected," Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical's president, chairman and CEO told CNBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
"Now it's a relative positive…but people are feeling much better about a European bottom and the potential signs of a Europe that's above zero percent growth, which is phenomenal," he added.
Meanwhile, most major central banks are proceeding full throttle with plans to flood the financial system with cheap liquidity –helping to grease the wheels of a stock market rally. The Bank of Japan's plans to buy massive quantities of bonds has sent the yen plunging, and the Federal Reserve is unbowed from its own quantitative easing efforts – although they did recently warn about inflation risks.
All this takes place against a backdrop of both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 flirting with record highs, and a sharp decline in the price of gold, an inflation hedge and a key barometer of investors' appetite for safe haven. Years of being bearish on the market has led to buying opportunities, some say.
(Read More: The Odd Season: Good Earnings, Nervous CEOs)
"The market has gone up with people being under-invested," Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told CNBC's "SquawkBox," from Davos. He said investors should want the market to go down "so they can get in."
Gold failed to punch through the $1,696 - $1,696 major resistance level on Wednesday to show $1,700 once again. The inability to do so alone caused investors and traders to lighten up long positions, as we saw a very sharp sell-off at the close in Europe.
(Related: Will Gold End 2013 Higher or Lower?)
Brent crude rose 9 cents at $112.50 a barrel. U.S. crude for March dropped 13 cents at $96.55, off a four-month high of $96.90 hit earlier.
It gets cold in Chicago. I'm convinced that many people live their lives without feeling the painful bight of wind coming off the lake on a zero degree January morning. Fortunately, I was able feel that weather earlier this morning, and it served as reminder that the value of natural gas is not going away.
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