Europe has been a drag on U.S. markets for the past few years, but this week the European Central Bank announced an open-ended bond-purchase program intended to keep borrowing rates low for countries struggling with debt. As a result, Spanish and Italian bonds rose this week, and big banks followed suit. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) rose 4.5% on the week and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) was up 4.2% to lead the Dow higher.
One of the major risks facing banks over the last year has been potential sovereign default or bank collapses in Europe. JPMorgan and Bank of America both have exposure to these markets, and at least for the time being, Europe appears to be acting in a strong enough fashion for the markets. If this keys a recovery in Europe, banks could be the big winners on the market.
Metals maker Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) was the other big winner this week, rising 2.3% on news of a huge stimulus plan in China. The country approved 55 projects that will inject $158 billion into the faltering economy. The projects focus on infrastructure like roads and bridges, which is why metals manufacturers soared this week along with industrial equipment makers like Caterpillar.
What may have surprised investors is that a relatively disappointing jobs report didn't have much of an impact on the market. The economy created only 96,000 jobs in August, which was below estimates, although the unemployment rate fell to 8.1%. This week was focused on hope of a recovery instead of potential signs of trouble.