The Dow Sprints to the Finish Line

The markets have bounced around constantly over the past few days. Tuesday was no exception. Despite a steady decline during Valentine's Day market hours, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) rebounded late and surged 80 points in the last half-hour of trading. The Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC) also finished higher, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) , off 0.09%, just wasn't feeling the love.

What's the story? The Dow erased some of its early losses when Greece made amends and delivered a late but well-received bouquet of flowers in the form of austerity promises. All right, so it sounds less romantic than a candlelit dinner on the island of Santorini, but we can't get too greedy at this point. After all, Athens is currently engaged in a long-winded negotiation to right a ship that's barely staying afloat.

If anything, this tense relationship between Greece and its European neighbors will cause many more lovers' quarrels, as Greece's debts amount to one and a half times its entire economy. That's a lot of baggage, and the delicate process of rescuing this country will weigh heavily on the economies of Europe and the United States.

The U.S. economy has its own set of issues to worry about, and the Commerce Department's disclosure of retail sales was a bit of a mixed shopping bag. Despite concern that sales would dip following the holidays, January proved rather robust and helped lift major retailer Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) about 0.7% on the day. However, there's still the issue of scaling down debt on the consumer front, which will remain a delicate balance going forward.

Speaking of debt, another company that has been trying rectify its balance sheet, Bank of America (NYS: BAC) took a bit of a spill today. A Citigroup analyst downgraded the rating on the company from "Buy" to "Neutral," citing overly optimistic predictions from other analysts on profit growth. At this point, Bank of America's strategy of paring down debt will continue, and today's drop could be a mere blip considering the stock is up 48% on the year. Fellow Fool Anand Chokkavelu has pointed out some catalysts that could cause Bank of America's stock to surge.

Overall, the Valentine's Day market roller-coaster resembles that of any long-term relationship. There will be some ups and downs along the way, which is why many of our investors have fallen in love with dividend stocks. Find more companies that deliver steady returns in our report, "Secure Your Future With 11 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." The report could match you with the best dividend stock for your portfolio, so download it now.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Isaac Pino owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter, where he goes by @TMFBoomer. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup, Wal-Mart Stores, and Bank of America.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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