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Market Commentary - Page 2

Investors in U.S. stocks have been getting solid, reliable earnings, but we question whether the price of those earnings still represents good value.

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The tensions in Ukraine ratcheted up a notch or two late this week when leaders of the nation’s Russian-occupied Crimea region said they will hold a vote in 10 days on unilaterally seceding from Ukraine and becoming part of Russia. Geopolitical situations of this potential magnitude typically weigh heavily on global markets, with nervous investors moving quickly to get risk off the table. So what’s different this time around?

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Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony February 27 on Capitol Hill provided a signal that the market wanted to hear: Policymakers are looking closely at the data to determine if bad weather is truly to blame for the recent weak reports on unemployment and other economic indicators. If it’s not the weather, she said they’re open to the idea of reconsidering the taper.

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Even as the Federal Reserve approved the second round of its monetary tapering last month, it reassured jittery investors that short-term interest rates would remain at near-zero levels well into the future. But the minutes from that January meeting, released to the public this week, tell a different story.

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As of this week, more than 70% of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have reported earnings for the latest quarter, revealing a few trends that create some concern about U.S. equities in 2014. Revenue growth is well short of earnings growth and has shown no signs yet of picking up.

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