The Dow Jones industrial average closed at an 18-month high of 10,997 Friday, after briefly crossing the 11,000 level, as speculation grew European leaders had agreed to a plan to breathe life into Greece’s ailing finances.

Although broader worries about the economy remained in place, investors took heart from European Central Bank president and Greece’s finance minister’s reassuring statements.  A Fitch Ratings downgrade on Greece’s debt pressured markets but investors chose to see the glass half full, sending the blue-chip Dow average past the 11,000 mark in the final ten minutes of trading. 

On the last trading day of a choppy week on Wall Street, the Dow average closed up 70 points, or 0.6%, at 10,997.  The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 7.93, or 0.7%, to 1,194.37 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index climbed 17.24 points, or 0.7%, to 2,454.05.  On the New York Stock Exchange, advancing shares beat losers two to one on a moderate volume of 971 million shares.

The euro gained against the dollar as Greece’s debt worries showed signs of easing.  The fate of the shared currency has come under question on rising concerns that Greece and a number of other Eurozone nations would find it difficult to control their ballooning deficits.

This morning’s US stock futures suggest markets would open with gains as investors consider strong China import data and a eurozone three-year, emergency aid package for Greece worth up to $40.49 billion at rates below current levels. 

Overall improvements in the economy, rising profit expectations and easing credit market conditions have sent the DJIA up 68% since the 12-year lows of March 2009.  After the close of markets today, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is scheduled to report its numbers and kick off an expected strong earnings season estimated by Zacks Investment Research to show overall revenues up about 6% and total net income around 21% above year ago numbers.  Net margins are expected to have improved 15%.  For Alcoa (NYSE:AA), however, the picture remains unclear amid a soft outlook for aluminum prices and a shaky eurozone economic growth outlook.  Revenues are expected to show 25% growth to $5.2 billion and earnings to come in at 11 cents a share, versus year-ago loss of 59 cent a share.

Companies reporting their numbers this week include Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD), Alcoa (NYSE:AA), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), CSX Corp (NYSE:CSX), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM).

Zacks Investment Research