The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) surged 2.4% today -- its largest gain of the year -- on the back of some fairly encouraging comments that the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve might do more to help the economy.
ECB President Mario Draghi suggested that Europe would be willing to cut interest rates if it's deemed necessary. That's a big deal, because the ECB's obsession with combating already-low inflation at the expense of countries facing Depression-level unemployment rates is a big reason Europe's been heading off the rails. Lowering interest rates probably won't be enough to solve all of Europe's problems, but it's insane that rates are still as high as 1% given economic conditions.
Likewise, in the U.S., Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart suggested that the Fed might have to do more to help out our recovery, which would most likely mean buying more long-term bonds through another Quantitative Easing or Operation Twist program. With negative fiscal stimulus resulting from federal cutbacks and layoffs by states, the Fed gains extra importance because it's the only game in town.
Not everyone's game, of course -- St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Dallas President Richard Fisher recently downplayed the recent jobs report and the idea that the Fed should do more to help the economy. We could find out more about which way the winds are blowing when Chairman Ben Bernanke visits Congress on Thursday.
Naturally, the biggest gainers today were a Who's Who of cyclical, economically sensitive stocks and names with big European exposure -- Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , which surged an incredible 7.6%.
Meanwhile, the S&P Volatility Index (INDEX: ^VIX ) -- the so-called Wall Street fear gauge -- fell more than 10%. Whether the comments by Draghi and Lockhart amount to a change in policy still remains to be seen. But today was a reminder of how the bulk of the market's gains come on just a few big days when you least expect it.
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