U.S. equities have held on to shallow gains
U.S. equities have held on to shallow gains led by a 0.4% rise on the Dow, with the S&P and NASDAQ lagging behind on the upside. Mixed earnings on the banking front, wide-open geopolitical risks in Europe, along with a fairly confident Fed MPR have left investors cautiously optimistic. Europe closed moderately firmer, with gains on the major bourses of 0.14-0.43%. Within the Dow J&J -1.4% (Talc payout), AMEX -0.8% and McDonald's -0.7% are the largest decliners, while Walgreens +2.4%, UT +1.6% and Walmart +1.6% are the biggest gainers. The dollar index is slightly lower near 94.80, WTI crude is 1% firmer and back over $71 bbl, while the VIX equity volatility index is 1.7% lower near 12.36 (12.97-11.62 session range). The S&P 500 has a toehold above 2.8k again to surpass March 13 highs, with 2,872 January 26 (life) highs the next upside target, if stocks can continue to shrug off the trade war, EM and China weakness, and the ongoing monetary policy normalization stateside.