"As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance. We're still dancing."
--Citigroup CEO Charles Prince in 2007
On that day in 2007, Prince was discussing Citigroup's participation in the leveraged buyout boom. In hindsight, we now realize many buyouts at the time were ill-conceived and the result of a massive credit bubble. Yet this illustrates the mind-set that leads the financial world into excesses when it's clear that long-term interests could be at risk.
Today, its hard not to wonder whether the world's central banks are in a similar situation. As long as the music's playing, you have to keep cutting rates. Today, ECB president Mario Draghi said the bank is set to begin the "unlimited" bond-buying program that sent markets soaring early last month. The one hold-up to a round of binge bond-buying on the continent? Spain accepting the conditions for its bailout.
Whether or not you believe there will be singificant damage in the future from central banks across the world pulling rates back near zero, the market has clearly made its own mind up: Lower rates and bailouts are preferred. On the back of Draghi's comments today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) is up 0.68% as of 1:45 p.m. EDT. Likewise, the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) has seen its own 0.64% gain.
On to today's market leaders
Looking across the Dow, the big winners today don't come as a surprise. Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) have seen the biggest gains among Dow stocks. Alcoa's future hinges on the global economy, and positive news out of Europe -- and the resulting hope of better global growth ahead -- is a boon to the fragile banking industry. On just about any day with outsized gains, you'll find both Alcoa and Bank of America among the biggest Dow gainers.
On the losing side we find Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) . The company was down a whopping 13% yesterday after it announced worse than expected results next year. Most troubling for the company: Free cash flow is set to fall from about $7.4 billion last year to $5 billion in 2013. That plunge in cash flow is enough to scare value investors away from the stock.
Looking at the long term
That's it for today's market check-up. If you're a Bank of America investor, the pops and drops can be nauseating. On most trading days, more shares of Bank of America trade hands than any other company. Between all that trading and the company selling off at any sign of economic slowdowns, Bank of America has become one of the most volatile companies you can buy. Motley Fool Senior Banking Analyst Anand Chokkavelu, CFA has created a report that cuts through all the up-and-down trading and gives you the details on the opportunities and risks facing the company, as well as some concise reasons to buy or sell. To get instant access to this timely report, click here to get started now.