Record High for S&P 500 Last Week, But Russian Tensions Threaten the Celebration

Friday was a good day for the S&P 500. The stock market index reached a new closing high of just under 1,860, a record that came at the end of a particularly fruitful week. All three of the leading market indexes — S&P 500, the Dow and Nasdaq — all posted gains for the last week of February, which put the total gains for the month itself quite high as well.

That was plenty good news for investors who’d feared the worst from a mixed January amid harsh weather and polar vortex-induced snowstorms. Retail sales took a big hit at the start of 2014, as did manufacturing and general hiring overall. But all that loss may have come as a result of a bigger trend that was already rolling into motion at the end of 2013, according to some economists.

In fact, the last quarter of 2013 doesn’t show much grow in terms of the U.S. gross domestic product. The mere 2.4% GDP growth rate was slower than the one from the quarter that preceded it. But those days seem to be going out the door.

Beginning last Monday, Feb. 24, the S&P 500 was spiking back up at a remarkable rate — so much so that some websites were tracking its hourly progress. While the S&P 500 didn’t set a new record early on last week, it finished strong for the week (and the month), making it quite a successful little run. So, what can the market expect for March?

As of Mar. 1, perhaps the answer is panic. Tensions over Russia’s conflict in the Ukraine have led U.S. investors to start selling, causing stock to dip quite a bit. It’s all thanks to Russia’s strengthening military force in the Ukraine, an action the West is viewing as unacceptable. Investors can sense potential trouble on the horizon, which is why they’re currently frantically selling what they have for a better payout. It’s a good thing too, as studies show that 52% of American adults currently own some kind of stock.

Now, just days after a record higher, the S&P 500 has slipped 1.1%, a slow start that could potentially get worse should a larger conflict arise between the U.S. and Russia. However, tensions could easily settle back down soon, as well. The next move is unknown, but in the meantime, the S&P’s celebrations of a record high may indeed be short-lived.


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