Ben Bernanke was in the hot seat Thursday, defending the handling of Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch and denying that he threatened to oust the bank's board if they didn't go through with the deal. The Fed itself made news, extending special lending facilities and reminding the financial markets that conditions "remain impaired." Economic data included disappointing increases in the number of unemployed filing claims, results that suggest the June jobs report won't show the same degree of improvement as the May report.
The day's big event was an enormously strong 7-year Treasury auction that followed enormously strong 2- and 5-year auctions earlier in the week and left some wondering whether central bank buying is involved. The 7-year yield ended at 3.19 percent -- 14 basis points below the auction's high yield! Stocks may be getting a boost from quarter-end window dressing (money managers who don't want to look like they missed the big rally). The S&P gained 2.1 percent to end just above 920.