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Despite another round of less than robust economic news, U.S. equities continued their recent climb last week. The S&P 500 added 0.6 percent, for its third straight weekly gain. This increase came although home builder sentiment dropped, along with housing starts and building permits. Producer prices also fell, bringing the year-over-year increase to 0.0 percent. The manufacturing sector did manage a modest increase, but capacity utilization fell, while industrial production edged higher.

But stocks seemed to take their cue from events in Europe, where the expectation of an agreement between Greece and the Troika began to build throughout the week, culminating in a deal on Friday. And although the agreement appeared to be one that was far more favorable to its creditors than to the newly elected government in Greece, it was enough to push the threat of a Greek exit from the Economic and Monetary Union aside, at least for a few months.



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What’s Different This Time? Corporate Earnings

Despite being up only fractionally on the year, the S&P 500 established a new record high last week. In doing so, it managed to overcome a 15 percent drop in the energy sector over the past six months, offset by a 15 percent increase in healthcare stocks during the same interval, and a positive contribution from each of the remaining eight sectors.
 
But it wasn’t until the energy sector rejoined the party four weeks ago, and has climbed 12 percent since, that a new high was established. But, as welcome as it may be, a new high in the S&P 500 is not such big news. It has been consistently establishing a series of all-time new highs for the better part of the past two years.



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Stocks rallied last week, taking their cue from a rise in the price of oil. North Sea Brent crude climbed $4.81 to $57.80 a barrel, a gain of 9.1 percent. In response, the S&P 500 climbed 3 percent, its best weekly showing since mid-December, as the energy sector rose 5.7 percent. In fact, it was most of the cyclical sectors that led the way as investor confidence turned higher. Financials, materials, and consumer discretionary sectors were particularly strong, while consumer staples, healthcare, and telecom trailed the overall index, and only the utilities sector turned lower. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.4 percent.

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Minneapolis(February 3, 2015) – A new study released today by Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP), finds that more than three-quarters (76%) of baby boomers who retired within the past five years felt “in control” of their decision to retire. According to more than half of recent retirees, physical health (53%) and emotional preparedness (52%) are the main contributors towards this sense of control boomers are feeling. 
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Choosing to retire is the biggest financial decision most people will make during their lifetimes, and numerous factors influence how and when an individual chooses to pull the retirement trigger. The Retirement Triggers study, commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, examines the financial and emotional aspects of retirement preparation that recent retirees say led them to have the confidence to officially enter retirement.

We asked for input from the first wave of retiring baby boomers to understand how various actions, plans and life events played a role in making the decision to leave their primary profession. After hearing from 1,000 respondents who have been formally retired for five years or less, we learned more about the elements within their careers, families, social circles and bank accounts that led them to have the confidence to retire.

What we found is that, while financial preparation for retirement was a strong focus for these new retirees, emotional preparation is an equally important part of the retirement equation and can have an impact before, during and after one’s retirement date. We also found that most who prepare carefully for retirement feel in control of their decision to leave the workforce, but some still inevitably experience an unexpected event that causes an early or unplanned retirement.
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Since the start of the year through February 2, the S&P 500 index is down 1.9 percent. It has been difficult for domestic stocks to generate any sustained upward momentum in the face of softer-than-expected economic activity at home, a surging dollar, and political uncertainty abroad. Only three of the ten index sectors are higher on the year, including utilities, healthcare, and consumer staples.
 
So far, at least, we are not seeing the expected outperformance of more economically-sensitive sectors, including the consumer who is the primary beneficiary of robust job creation, low inflation and falling gasoline prices. Nor are bond yields rising, as has long been expected, as inflation continues to move lower. Since the start of the year, the yield on the ten-year Treasury note has fallen to 1.70 percent from 2.17 at year-end. The two-year note yield has dropped from 0.68 to 0.44 percent. The PCE deflator in December fell to a twelve month increase of just 0.7 percent, its lowest rate since October, 2009.



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MINNEAPOLIS – February 2, 2015 – Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) today announced that Jim Cracchiolo, chairman and chief executive officer, is scheduled to speak about the company’s business and strategy at the Credit Suisse Financial Services Forum on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at approximately 11 a.m. (ET).
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MINNEAPOLIS – January 28, 2015 – The Board of Directors of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.58 per common share payable on February 27, 2015 to shareholders of record at the close of business on February 9, 2015.
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The European Central Bank (ECB) exceeded market expectations by announcing a larger than anticipated program of quantitative easing last Thursday. The ECB has now joined the ranks of the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the Federal Reserve as central banks that have employed the non-traditional policy device in the wake of the financial crisis.
 
With its announcement, the ECB not only embarked on an intensified effort to stimulate the Eurozone economy and lift inflation, but also asserted its independence and put to rest questions about the scope of its mandate, at least in its own eyes. For better or for worse, the bank is now in for a penny, in for a pound – or more accurately, in for a cent, in for a euro.
 



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