Wall St up on Greece, nears resistance


NEW YORK |
Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:35pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks rose on Monday, led by bank shares after Greece’s parliament approved reforms needed to qualify for a cash disbursement and avoid an unruly default.

Greek lawmakers backed drastic cuts in wages, pensions and jobs on Sunday as the price of a 130 billion euro ($170 billion) bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

But unrest in the streets and a voting rebellion by lawmakers of the ruling coalition suggested Greece may be on the brink of massive social unrest, which would make it difficult for Athens to stick to the rescue terms.

The SP 500 last week hit a 7-month high, in part on bets the Greek reforms would pass. The benchmark index traded near the 1,355 level, seen as a resistance point and possible trigger for a pullback.

“Although we’re up, we still haven’t eclipsed the highs we did last week in some of the indexes,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank in Cleveland. “It is a sign there was some more enthusiasm on the prospect (of the Greek deal) than on the news.”

The SP 500 is up more than 25 percent from a low in early October. McCain said he is worried that the recent market rally may have outpaced the economic improvement.

“You have to respect the fact the market has been as strong as it has been, but we wouldn’t buy into this strength,” he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 82.27 points, or 0.64 percent, to 12,883.50. The SP 500 Index .SPX gained 10.12 points, or 0.75 percent, to 1,352.76. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 28.80 points, or 0.99 percent, to 2,932.68.

Financial stocks .GSPF, up more than 1 percent, were among the best performers on the SP 500, and bank shares led gains in Europe. A gauge of European banking stocks .SX7P gained 0.5 percent, and an index of Greek banks .FTATBNK surged 12.3 percent.

On Wall Street, Bank of America (BAC.N) climbed 2.7 percent to $8.29 and is up almost 50 percent this year. Bank shares continue to outperform after having posted deep losses in 2011.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) raised the stakes in an intensifying global patent battle with Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) by targeting Samsung’s latest model using Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) fast-growing Android software.

Apple shares rose 1.5 percent to $500.95 after reaching a record of $503.83, while Google rose 1.2 percent to $613.26.

Google is expected to win approval from European regulators, as well as from U.S. antitrust authorities, for its planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility (MMI.N), according to people familiar with the matter.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (REGN.O) jumped 13 percent to $115.37 after the company significantly raised its 2012 sales forecast for a key eye drug.

As earnings season moves into its final stages, 51 companies in the SP 500 are scheduled to report results this week. According to Thomson Reuters data through Monday, of the 357 companies in the benchmark index that have released results, 64 percent have beaten analyst expectations.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)


Austerity Tourism: Greek Travel Deals

Athenians rioted in the streets following Greece’s passage of fiscal austerity measures on Sunday. But for tourists who aren’t put off by the turmoil there, experts say now may be the time to visit.

Flights to Greece are less than half of what they cost in the summer and, even for this time of year, the lowest-tier fares are still available for last-minute getaways, according to travel websites like Orbitz.com and Expedia.com. As Greeks brace for more austerity measures, it has never been more important to attract visitors, travel experts say. “Tourism is Greece’s number one source of revenue and they need cash,” says David Lytle, editorial director at Frommers.com.

For flights leaving in the next two weeks, for instance, Delta Airlines, Swissair, Iberia and American Airlines all have roundtrip tickets to Athens for $770 to $800. Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and founder of CardHub.com, says they’re usually closer to $1,000. Hotel rates across Greece’s major tourist spots have dropped by up to 20%, according to a recent survey of 1,300 hotels by travel website TripAdvisor.com.

Of course, travel pros warn that prices are down for a reason. While the U.S. State Department has not listed Greece as a no-go destination, experts warn that travel insurance companies likely won’t cover cancelations if the turmoil spreads. (Most policies don’t cover civil unrest and “known risks” ahead of traveling.) Plus, the risk of more strikes could lead to the closing of museums and restaurants. Even with low prices, Papadimitriou cautions travelers to bargain on hotel prices. And, for those who are content on spending time closer to home, a milder winter in the U.S. has also led to more domestic travel deals, too.