Monday, June 22, 2015

Markets climb on hopes for another Greek bailout

Dow went up 103 (but off the highs), advancers over decliners 3-2 & NAZ gained 36.  The MLP index rose 1+ to the 415s & the REIT index lost 2+ to 314.  Junk bond funds were mixed & Treasuries sold off.  Oil climbed back over 60 & gold fell below 1200 again.

AMJ (Alerian MLP Index tracking fund)

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CLN15.NYM....Crude Oil Jul 15....59.90 Up ...0.29 (0.5%)

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European policy makers expressed confidence that a deal with Greece was within reach after Prime Minister Tsipras’s gov submitted a last-minute set of proposals they said could end a 5-month standoff over aid.  Greek stocks & bonds surged as officials said that progress had been made toward meeting the terms of creditors, including in the contentious areas of pensions & revenue.  While the set of reform measures was delivered too late for a full appraisal by euro-area finance chiefs, unlike prior proposals it wasn’t rejected out of hand & officials said it could form a basis for a deal.  “I’m of the opinion that we’ll achieve an agreement with Greece this week,” European Commission pres Juncker said after meeting with Tsipras.  “This won’t be easy, we will work at this -- just like we did over the last two days and nights -- but my goal still is that by the end of the week we’ll find an agreement.”  Attention now shifts to an emergency summit of leaders from the 19 euro countries later today, when Tsipras will have a chance to put his case to German Chancellor Merkel & French pres Hollande.  With work still to do to flesh out the Greek proposals, a 2nd, scheduled summit beginning Thurs is the more likely forum for a deal.  The Greek gov said its proposals included steps to eliminate early retirement options, as well as hiking the sales tax, increasing tax surcharges that middle & high-income earners pay & introducing a levy on companies with annual net income of more than €500K ($568K).  Dutch Finance Minister Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of his euro-area counterparts, said that the package submitted was “broad and comprehensive” & a positive step.  Finance ministers asked the 3 creditor institutions -- the ECB, the IMF & the European Commission -- to work with Greek authorities & “start immediately on these proposals,” said Dijsselbloem.  With the clock running toward a Jun 30 deadline to make IMF payments & work out a new aid deal after months of fruitless negotiations, avoiding imminent default may be the first of Tsipras’s challenges.  Even if he reaches a tentative agreement this week, he’ll still need the support of the parliament at home, which is dominated by lawmakers from his Syriza coalition opposed to austerity measures such as pension cuts.  While a deal would present a victory for Tsipras, it might only serve as a stop gap, with Greece likely to need additional aid later this year.

New Proposals Spark Ray of Hope for Greek Deal This Week

More first-time homebuyers took the plunge in May, helping catapult US sales of previously owned properties to their highest level since 2009.  Closings on existing houses rose 5.1% to a 5.35M annualized rate, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said.  First-time buyers accounted for 32% of purchases, matching the highest share since Sep 2012.  Lower down-payment requirements from gov-sponsored enterprises, rising rents & a brighter employment picture are persuading more Americans to become homeowners.  The prospect of higher borrowing costs as the Federal Reserve considers raising rates may also be spurring fence-sitters to move forward, an additional boost to a housing market that’s been short on momentum.  Excluding Nov 2009, when demand was bolstered by the expiration of a federal first-time homebuyer tax credit, sales last month were the strongest in more than 8 years.  Demand accelerated in all 4 major regions & median prices rose at a slower pace.  Purchases of previously owned homes, which account for about 90% of the market, were projected to climb to a 5.26M compared to 5.09M in Apr, up from an originally reported 5.04M.  Easier credit is helping soothe the sting of rising property values.  The NAR said the median price of an existing home rose 7.9% from May 2014 to $228K.  Prices have been bolstered by lean housing inventory.  While the number of previously owned homes for sale rose 1.8% to 2.3M, at the current sales pace, it would take 5.1 months to sell those houses.  That’s down from 5.2 months at the end of Apr.  Before May, the housing industry had shown gradual gains in Q2 after a slump in Q1.

Sales of Existing U.S. Homes Rose in May

It could soon pay more to write lengthier books, if you are an author self-publishing on's Kindle ebook platform.  Starting next month, it will pay independent authors based on the number of pages read, rather than the number of times their book has been borrowed.  Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform lets authors set list prices, decide rights & edit the book at any time.  Self-publishing has transformed what it means to be an author.  Simply uploading a document & adding a cover layout to it can turn anyone into a published writer on ebook platforms.  AMZN said the move would better align payout with the length of books & how much customers read.  "We're making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors," Amazon said.  The company uses a complex method to determine payments for independent authors - payouts are based on a fund, the size of which is set by AMZN every month.  Under the new plan, authors will get a share of the fund proportionate to the number of pages read.  While independent authors have largely embraced the self-publishing platform, the company has in the past been involved in bitter fights with large publishers last year over pricing, reaching an end when they reached a multi-year agreement for e-book & print book sales in Nov.  The stock rose 1.37.  If you would like to learn more about AMZN, click on this link:

Amazon to pay self-published authors based on pages read (AMZN)

The euro biggies have come to some sort of agreement about increased austerity in Greece so the bailout money will not be called next week.  Of course, even if that test is passed, the party back home has to sign off & that looks to be dim.  The Greek gov was elected on a platform of "no more austerity."  Ahead of today's optimism, euro stocks soared on these vague hopes about refinancing the debt.  On the other side of the world, not so good.  The China stock market had a terrible time last week.  It almost tripled in the last 12 months & then dropped 13% last week on worries about overbought markets.  Even though there's a lot going on in global markets with ups & downs, the popular averages in the US are at or just under record highs.

Dow Jones Industrials

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