At record high, U.S. stocks look to extend breakout

Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:25pm EST
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By Ashley Lau

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks are poised for more upward momentum even as uncertainty over oil prices and Greek debt negotiations keeps the market on tenterhooks, analysts say.

Strong fourth-quarter U.S. company earnings and signs of an overall improving economy, alongside what appears to be the start of a bottoming in crude oil prices, have given equities support.

After starting 2015 with its sharpest monthly drop in a year and a spike in volatility, the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX hit an intraday record on Friday while the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI reached its highest point so far this year.

As "stocks have found a footing, people aren't as afraid of the potential negative" stemming from recent instability in oil prices and Greece, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Phoenix Financial Services in New York.

"That's allowed stocks to start breaking out of the channel that they've been stuck in since the beginning of the year," he said.

Volatility seems to abating. The CBOE Market Volatility Index , Wall Street's fear gauge, oscillated between 15 and 24 for most of 2015, rising over its historical mean of 20 during 15 of the year's 30 trading days so far.

Its 20-day moving average hit its highest since mid-2012 earlier this month.

But on Friday, the VIX fell to its lowest level this year, briefly trading below 15. That, together with a rising market, could be a promising sign.   Continued...

A Wall Street sign is pictured in front of the New York Stock Exchange, open during Winter Storm Juno, in the Manhattan borough of New York January 27, 2015.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri