Stocks mixed as Greek deal offsets tumbling oil

Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:55pm EST
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By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks hovered near all-time highs on Monday, held down by a sharp drop in crude oil prices, while European shares rallied to seven-year highs on last week's conditional financial rescue for Greece.

Yields on low-rated euro zone government bonds fell on relief an agreement was reached late Friday as it eased concerns that Greece would leave the euro, even though it merely buys time for Athens to seek a long-term deal with Europe.

The Pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 surged to highs last seen in December 2007 and Germany's DAX equity index .GDAXI set a record closing high, pushing gains so far this year to almost 14 percent.

Britain's FTSE 100 index .FTSE was the only major index in Europe to close lower, albeit a whisker off break-even, after HSBC (HSBA.L: Quote) reported a 17 percent drop in annual profit. The bank's shares fell 4.6 percent.

Oil weakened on rising inventories, which have pressured crude prices and hit U.S. energy shares, a major component of the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index. The S&P 500 and the Dow industrials closed at all-time highs on Friday.

"Crude continues to be very weak. But you can argue that as long as it stabilizes and doesn't completely plunge, it's probably a positive, so it's really going to depend on earnings and macro news in the market right now," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

The Nasdaq rose, marking nine straight sessions of gains, while the S&P posted a slight loss. Still, some investors wonder how much U.S. equities can rise given their valuations.

In the sixth year of both an economic cycle and bull market, companies are finding it more difficult to grow revenues and earnings, said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.   Continued...

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange February 23, 2015. REUTERS/Staff/remote