Lots of News for Markets to Digest
U.S. investors are still taking their cues from overseas as a snowstorm of events piles up across Europe.
Officials are turning the heat up on Greece to agree to terms of a debt deal. Those terms are bad-tasting medicine for many Greeks but necessary to receive the second, crucial tranche of bailout money and avoid a debt default on March 20.
About 15,000 public sector job cuts have been announced, and there's growing talk of 20% across-the-board wage cuts. The dramatic measures are being met by a 24-hour general strike in the nation today.
In Romania, the prime minister has stepped down, marking the latest debt-stricken European government to fall over a budget crisis.
Then there's the extremely cold winter weather hitting the region, freezing consumer spending and threatening to pull an economy already teetering on the brink of recession into an official downturn.
Meanwhile, oil prices are falling to their lowest levels of the year, but U.S. gas prices are rising and drivers face more pain at the pump as the warm summer weather approaches. So far this year, gas prices are up 20 cents, to $3.48 for a gallon of regular unleaded nationwide.
Some analysts say that gas prices in major metropolitan areas including New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and Chicago can spike to $4.60 just in time for Memorial Day. The reasons are (1) increased summer demand, (2) summer fuel blends are more expensive to refine, and (3) geopolitical tensions rising in the Middle East.
The U.S. and Europe have hit Iran, OPEC's second biggest producer, with economic sanctions. While the U.S. does not import oil from Iran, Italy, Spain, Greece and France do. The sanctions highlight risk factors that affect the oil market and make gas prices volatile.
Add it all up and U.S. stock futures Tuesday morning are ... essentially flat.