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Last week, stocks in the U.S. posted their best gains since last July, rising 2.7 percent in the Good Friday shortened week. In the process, the S&P 500 closed back above its 50-day moving average, turned positive once again for the year, and moved to within just 1.4 percent of its all-time high. 
 
The push higher was prompted by firmer economic data, comments from Fed Chair Yellen that were generally perceived to be dovish, and an apparent diplomatic breakthrough in Ukraine, although its effectiveness is uncertain.
 
On the economic front, retail sales, industrial production and capacity utilization, consumer prices, the Philadelphia Fed report on manufacturing, and weekly jobless claims each evidenced some firming of activity as the first quarter came to a close and the second got underway.


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The question on most investor minds recently is whether the pullback in stocks over the past couple of weeks is the start of a more severe correction. While, of course, it is impossible to say with certainty, the betting here is that the answer is no.

The worst losses have occurred in biotech and internet stocks. From its peak on February 25, the ishares ETF of biotech stocks is down 21 percent. And from its peak on March 6, the Powershares ETF of internet stocks is down 17 percent.
 
What these two groups have in common is price momentum and stretched valuations. What we have been witnessing is a nasty round of profit taking, as investors who rode the momentum higher are booking their gains and stepping aside.


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Despite reaching a new closing high of 1890 on Wednesday of last week, U.S. equities managed to squeeze out only a fractional gain last week, as the S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent. Prices turned decidedly weaker on Friday, after the March jobs report. The report itself was not bad, but just not strong enough to hold back the tide of selling that started a few weeks ago among high-flying momentum names in biotech and technology, and spread on Friday to ensnare a wider swath of cyclical groups.

Among the ten sector groups in the S&P 500, only utilities managed a gain on the day. Among the broader averages, the worst of the selloff was reserved for the Nasdaq Composite, given its higher concentration of biotech and internet names. The index lost 2.6 percent on Friday and 0.7 percent on the week.


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The economy is entering a new phase, where weather will no longer be the major headwind it has been for the past few months. Therefore, we will soon find out whether growth will accelerate toward a sustainable 3 percent or so pace, as many expect, or whether it remains stuck in a seemingly endless, less robust environment.

The spring housing season is going to be very important. Activity has plateaued in the past few months, and price increases in some markets have stalled. But theoretically, there is a significant amount of pent-up demand. According to the Atlanta Fed, the pace of household formation over the past five years collapsed by 60 percent compared to the pace of the previous five years. And while both prices and mortgage rates have risen somewhat, affordability remains high by historical standards.


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Minneapolis(March 4, 2014) – More than half of Americans surveyed say they are saving up to an average of $185 per month by consciously cutting back on eating out, entertainment and clothing, according to the Financial Trade-Offs study released today by Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP). The survey found encouraging insights that indicate people are making a conscious effort to spend less discretionary income in order to save more. However, it also uncovered that many Americans haven’t cut back on areas that can make the biggest impact on their savings. The multi-generational study surveyed Americans ages 25 to 67 with at least $25,000 in investible assets and access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.*  
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MINNEAPOLIS — (February 7, 2014) — Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP) will launch its latest national ad campaign, “Real Questions, Real Answers”, on February 8th during the Sochi Olympics. The new ads, featuring Academy Award winning actor Tommy Lee Jones in his third consecutive campaign with Ameriprise, highlight the firm’s exclusive Confident Retirement®approach and reinforce the company’s commitment to helping pre-retirees and retirees prepare for and feel more confident about all aspects of their financial future.
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MINNEAPOLIS – February 4, 2014 – Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) today reported fourth quarter 2013 net income(1) of $298 million, or $1.47 per diluted share. Operating earnings were $378 million, up 3 percent from a year ago, with operating earnings per diluted share up 9 percent to $1.87. View More
MINNEAPOLIS – February 4, 2014 – The Board of Directors of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.52 per common share payable on February 28, 2014 to shareholders of record at the close of business on February 14, 2014.
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