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World Week Ahead: Greece, Fed minutes, Wal-Mart

This week's attention is firmly on today's start of a two-day meeting of euro-zone finance ministers aimed at negotiating a resolution for Greece's financial struggles, and then minutes from the latest US Federal Reserve meeting released on Wednesday.

US financial markets are closed for the Presidents' Day holiday today.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index increased 1.1 percent last week, bolstered by better-than-expected economic data as well as optimism about a deal that will avert Greece's exit from the euro.

Data on Friday showed that the euro-zone's gross domestic product increased 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, from 0.2 percent in the previous three months. Germany's GDP expanded a better-than-expected 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, which bolstered the nation's benchmark index to a record.

The DAX touched a record-high 11,013.85 before paring its gain to 10,963.40 at the close in Frankfurt on Friday.

"Markets are being driven by evidence that the European economy is recovering," Dirk Thiels, head of investment management at KBC Asset Management in Brussels, told Bloomberg. "German GDP figures were quite encouraging. The hard data is finally giving us some relief and investors will be pretty happy that the core of Europe is holding up."

Reports about the region released in the coming days include the euro-zone trade balance, due today; German and euro-zone ZEW economic sentiment, due Tuesday; euro-zone consumer confidence and the region's current account, due Thursday; and euro-zone manufacturing and services PMI, due Friday.

In the US, investors will eye a speech by Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser on Tuesday followed by the minutes of the Fed's January meeting released on Wednesday, which will be scrutinised for any clues about the timing of a rate hike.

Traders now see a 55 percent chance the Fed will raise interest rates from virtually zero by September, up from 39 percent at the end of last month, fed fund futures show, according to Bloomberg.

Wall Street might be poised to extend its recent advance. Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.1 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 2 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rallied 3.2 percent. The S&P 500 ended Friday at a record high close of 2,096.99.

As "stocks have found a footing, people aren't as afraid of the potential negative" stemming from recent instability in oil prices and Greece, Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Phoenix Financial Services in New York, told Reuters.

Some recent weaker-than-expected US data have failed to alter the view that the economy is in great shape.

On Friday a report showed the University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index unexpectedly fell to 93.6 this month, down from a final reading of 98.1 in January. It was the first decline in seven months.

"I don't think this is the beginning of a downtrend," Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York, told Bloomberg. "We still have some strong supports for confidence, with the stock market heading to new highs, the job market doing well and gasoline prices still low."

So far this year, the Dow has risen 1.5 percent, the S&P 500 has increased 2.1 percent, and the Nasdaq has climbed 3.6 percent.

The latest round of US corporate earnings has underpinned optimism about the outlook.

Of the 391 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, about 71.1 percent have topped profit expectations, above the historical average, Thomson Reuters data show.

Goodyear, Wal-Mart, and Nordstrom are among US companies releasing their quarterly results in the coming days.

This week will offer clues on the US real estate industry with a report on the housing market index on Tuesday, and housing starts on Wednesday.

Other economic reports scheduled for release this week include the Empire State manufacturing survey, due Tuesday; industrial production and producer price index, due Wednesday; weekly jobless claims, PMI manufacturing index, Philadelphia Fed survey, and leading indicators, due Thursday; and Atlanta Fed business inflation expectations, due Friday.

Oil prices also saw a week of recovery, with Brent adding about 6 percent to rise about US$60 for the first time in 2015. While companies continue to pare spending plans and the number of active oil rigs in the US continues to decline, global supply remains high.