Greek Drama Has Euro Market Watchers on Edge of Their Seats

Morning Money Memo…

Demonstrators pass through the streets of Athens shouting slogans against the Greek government., Dec. 29, 2014. George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

Europe's wobbly finances are once again a worry for global financial markets, showing that you never can tell where the next surprise for the stock market might come from. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has delivered a stern warning to Greece, saying her government expects the Athens government to stick by the terms of its international bailout agreement. The Euro currency has plunged to a nine year low against the U.S. dollar. Greece is holding an election later this month, and anti-austerity party Syriza is ahead in the polls. Syriza wants to renegotiate the terms of its international bailout. The stability of the eurozone may hang in the balance. But the German news magazine Der Spiegel has cited unnamed government officials suggesting Merkel and her finance minister no longer believe it would be too risky for the 19-member eurozone if Greece dropped the currency. But many economists and financial experts say a "Grexit" would be risky for Europe.

"Investors Shun Stock Pickers" says a front-page headline in The Wall Street Journal. Increasingly, investors are leaving their brokers behind and parking their money in low-fee index funds. Vanguard Group, the biggest firm to offer a big range index-tracking products, saw a record inflow of more than $200 billion in new investor money. The move comes as most hedge funds lagged behind major indexes by a big margin. For years, most actively managed mutual funds have under-performed the S&P 500 and other stock averages.

Pay rates for American Airlines pilots are taking off. The pilots union has agreed to vote on a five year contract proposal that would raise pay by 26 percent this month and offer smaller rises in future years. Airline profits have been soaring to record highs partly because the price of jet fuel has plummeted

J.R.R. Tolkien would be pleased by the continued success of The Hobbit. The fantasy novel and children's book was first published in 1937. Hollywood kicked off the new year with more strong ticket sales for "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," which topped the weekend box office for the third straight weekend. Peter Jackson's Middle-earth finale took in $21.9 million, according to studio estimates.

Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to add a little more "book" to Facebook. The social network's founder and CEO says his New Year resolution is to read a book every other week, with an emphasis on learning about different beliefs and cultures. Zuckerberg created a "Year in Book" page and urged his friends to join him in the project. As of Sunday afternoon, it had more than 89,000 likes. The first book in his program, Moises Naim's "The End of Power," was out of stock Sunday on and had a sales ranking of No. 203. The book was first published in 2013.