Spain aid deal calms Europe fears

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US stocks will get a lift on Monday after euro zone finance ministers agreed to lend Spain up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to help its battered banks.

The surprisingly large amount of aid removes a huge cloud that has been hanging over financial markets, with investors fearing that a banking crisis in euro zone's fourth-largest economy could have compounded the currency bloc's troubles with Greece.

Though the exact amount to be lent will be decided in just over a week, striking a deal now means Spain has added support in case Greece's June 17 elections throw financial markets into a tailspin.

“This is a major step in avoiding a contagion,” said Tim Speiss, partner-in-charge of EisnerAmper's Personal Wealth Advisors Group in New York.

“The amount is pretty high, higher-than-expected. Although we need to get more details, at least for equity markets in the US and around the world, this definitely eases short-term fears,” Speiss said.

US stocks are coming off their best week of 2012, in large part due to expectations that something would be done for Spain's banks.

After a 2-1/2-hour conference call of the 17 finance ministers, which several sources described as heated, the Eurogroup and Madrid said the amount of the bailout would be sufficiently large to banish any doubts.

For Wall Street, anything that diminishes fears over Europe is welcome news. The broad S&P 500 index fell 6.3 percent in May, its largest percentage drop since September, as the euro zone debt crisis worsened in the wake of Greek elections that produced a hung parliament.

In the first Greek poll, a large number of voters voted for parties opposed to the country's international bailout. The re-run of Greek elections on June 17 could decide whether the country stays in the euro zone.

“It's good that the news of the aid come ahead of the Greek elections. There has already been a lot of volatility in the market associated with it (the elections), so it's a good way to calm the sentiment until we get the elections out of the way,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

In other parts of the world, news was not as good.

Data showed China's inflation dipped to a two-year low in May while economic activity remained weak. This reinforced expectations that further policy easing could be in the pipeline to head off a sharper slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

However, the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday was not as grim as the market had feared after China's surprising interest rate cut this week - the first since the depths of the 2008/09 global crisis.

But the numbers still suggested economic activity remains sluggish in China. There were also concerns that while the economy may stabilize with stimulus measures, growth could slow down further.

EYES ON APPLE

Apple Inc kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, and more than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant, Google Inc - in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple is expected to announce its own mapping application, challenging the position of Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and iCloud storage service with all its devices, the latest riposte in its battle with Google's Android smartphone software.

Apple shares rose 1.5 percent to close at $580.32 on Friday. For the week, the stock rose 3.5 percent, but for the month, the shares were almost flat.

Google shares rose 0.4 percent to end at $580.45 on Friday, closing the week with a 1.7 percent gain. However, for the month, the stock was almost unchanged.

On June 1, the S&P 500 index ended below its 200-day moving average for the first time this year, but it clawed its way back above the key level and rallied later in the week on hopes that Europe would find solutions to its problems. For the week on Friday, the Dow advanced 3.6 percent, the S&P 500 rose 3.7 percent and the Nasdaq jumped about 4 percent - their best weekly percentage gains since December.

The US economic calendar in the coming week includes data on the Producer Price Index and retail sales on Wednesday. Reports on the Consumer Price Index and initial weekly jobless claims are set for Thursday. Data on Friday includes the Empire State manufacturing index, US industrial production and the preliminary reading for June on consumer sentiment from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan surveys. - Reuters


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