Stocks ended Monday on a decidedly positive note two days in advance of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s highly anticipated announcement about the future of the central bank’s fiscal stimulus policy.
The Federal Open Market Committee is set to release a statement at the conclusion of its two day meeting that will be followed up by a press conference held by Bernanke. Both communications will take place on Wednesday in an atmosphere in which investors seem to have accepted that a draw down of Federal Reserve spending is much closer than had previously been expected.
Stocks rose accross the board after last week’s rout, with the S&P 500 advancing 0.76 percent to 1,639.04 points, while the Dow was up 0.73 percent to 15,179.85 and the Nasdaq made the day’s biggest gains by percentage, up 0.83 percent to 3,452.13 points at close.
Oil and natural gas stocks figured into the day’s broad rally, with Range Resources (RRC) posting a 5.45 percent gain to close at $77.37 per share, while Pioneer Resources (PXD) was also a big winner, closing at $152.32 per share on a gain of 3.89 percent.
Big oil also shared in the spoils. Conoco (COP) closed at $61.94 on a gain of nearly 1.5 percent, while Exxon (XOM) gained one percent to close at $91.55 a share. British Petroleum (BP) also nabbed a one percent gain, closing at $43.26 per share. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) gained a half of a percent, finishing the day at $65.90.
June has seen oil prices rebound somewhat, with July contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude hitting their highest level since mid-February in early trading on Monday at $98.47, after scraping against one-month lows under pressure from fears about the Syrian civil war spilling over the country’s borders and upsetting an already strained and tenuous balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions.
It has been suggested that concerns over disruptions to the region’s oil production and shipping routes, as well as to the potentially lucrative exploration projects currently underway in the Levant basin and elsewhere might be under threat given the intensity of the current conflict, and its potential to spread to volatile neighboring countries such as Iraq and Lebanon. President Obama’s assertion that the Syrian regime had crossed a “red line” in its alleged use of sarin nerve gas, thereby justifying shipments of U.S. arms to rebel groups in the disintegrating country could be having the effect of convinving investors that something is indeed being done to contain the conflict.
The announcement comes shortly ahead of a peace conference that is set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland that will seek to pave the way for a peaceful resolution. Concurrently, Iran’s elections were handily won by self-proclaimed moderate candidate Hassan Rohani, an event that could signal a deflation of tensions between Iran, a staunch ally of Syria, and the U.S., Israel, and other Western nations concerned about the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program.