It's the economy, stupid. And it seems to be getting better.
A trio of economic and corporate data released yesterday may convince some bears that it's time to be bullish: (1) The Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were 3.4 million job openings in December, the highest level in about three years. However, if you haven’t seen too many "Help Wanted" ads out there, it could be because the jobs recovery has been uneven. Many employers are reserving hiring for the highly skilled. Still, the ratio of applicants per job opening has declined to 3.9 to 1.
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(2) The Federal Reserve said consumer borrowing grew by more than $19 billion in December to near pre-recession levels, as Americans feel more comfortable taking on more debt for car loans, student loans, and other purchases.
(3) Dow component Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) yesterday reported higher quarterly profits and revenue, and said more people are visiting its theme parks.
The data -- coupled with signs that Greece is close to convincing international lenders that it is worthy of a second bailout -- helped push stocks into the plus column yesterday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 33 points, and will open today's session just 120 points shy of the13,000 threshold -- a level not seen since May of 2008.
Futures Wednesday morning are indicating a higher open. The U.S. economic calendar is light today, sending investors' attention overseas, where Greek coalition leaders are picking through a 50-page draft deal on further austerity that is needed to secure a bailout and avert a looming bankruptcy.
Greek party leaders are expected to meet later today.