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Markets Revisit Mid-October Highs; Dow Gains 115 Points

Financials, technology, and homebuilders lead the charge higher

by 12/18/2012 4:16:35 PM
Stocks quoted in this article:

It was another strong day on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) posted its second consecutive triple-digit gain, and closed at its highest point since Oct. 18. "Markets responded favorably to the latest fiscal-cliff developments, and continued their technical momentum," observed Schaeffer's Senior Equity Analyst Joe Bell, who added that "financials and technology again led the way."

Continue reading for more on today's market, including:

  • Fiscal-cliff talks, an upgrade for Greece, five notable stocks, and our Tweet of the day, which reminds us where we should be focusing our attention.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) continued to forge a path higher, gaining 115 points, or 0.9%, to notch its highest close since Oct. 18. Just four of the Dow's 30 members fell short of breakeven; General Electric (NYSE:GE) brought up the rear with a 1.1% decline. Duking it out for the top slot were United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), the latter of which ended up the day's victor, with a gain of 3.3%.

Breaking through resistance at 1,440 was the S&P 500 Index (SPX), which tacked on 16 points, or 1.2%. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) , meanwhile, was the day's outperformer, rallying 1.5%, or 44 points. Both the SPX and COMP also finished near two-month highs.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) continued to founder, losing 0.8 point, or 4.7%, to violate its 80-day moving average.



A Trader's Take:

"It probably isn't a surprise," quipped Bell, "but the fiscal cliff negotiations were again front and center this morning, and signs are starting to point toward both sides budging a little. Although both sides remain at odds, many participants feel Washington officials will do something to halt anything drastic that would create a disaster for the markets." Turning to specific sectors, Bell added, "Housing stocks performed well again today, as the latest NAHB Housing Market Index jumped up in December and exceeded expectations. The homebuilding stocks are back near 12-month highs and the sector is one of the best performers of 2012."

3 Things to Know About Today's Market:

  • In Washington, Democrat and Republican leaders inched closer to a budget deal that would circumvent the fiscal cliff. Both sides have begun to show the potential for compromise -- most recently, President Obama agreed to some wiggle room with regard to taxes and certain spending cuts. Meanwhile, House Republicans sketched out a "plan B," which would include tax hikes for those earning $1 million or more.
  • Standard & Poor's ratings service lifted its opinion on Greece's sovereign credit rating by six slots (to B-) and granted the country a "stable" outlook, thanks to expected peer support from other European Union members. This is the good news. The bad news, however, is that B- still constitutes "junk" status.
  • Amid complaints from institutional investors including the California teachers' pension fund, investment firm Cerberus Capital Management is selling its stake in privately held gun manufacturer Freedom Group. A semiautomatic rifle made by Freedom brand Bushmaster was reportedly used during last Friday's shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn.

Plus ... Hasbro (NYSE:HAS) will debut a black-and-silver version of its popular Easy-Bake Oven toy, in an effort to make the product more gender neutral. New Jersey teen McKenna Pope collected 40,000 signatures protesting the traditional pink-and-purple model, arguing the color scheme discourages those boys who also want to cook a mediocre cupcake through the heat of a light bulb. Although Pope recently delivered boxes of signatures to HAS headquarters, company officials maintain the new color scheme has been in development for the past 18 months.

Today's Top Tweet:

"If you listen to the news, you'll hate this market. If you pay attention to price action, you'll love this market $$"
@jfahmy, 12:52 p.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today:

  1. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) call buyers scooped up short-term bullish bets.
  2. A large-scale Nokia (NYSE:NOK) put trader rolled positions to a higher strike.
  3. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD) speculators see considerable upside ahead.
  4. Toyota Motor (NYSE:TM) rallied to its highest point since March 2011, despite a mixed pair of headlines.
  5. Soon-to-expire, near-the-money calls were the options of choice in Goldman Sachs Group (NYSE:GS).

Question of the Day:

Q: Are all in-the-money options automatically exercised?
A: The Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) automatically exercises any expiring equity options that close in the money by $0.01 or more. Your specific brokerage, however, could have a different threshold for automatic expiration, so you may wish to ask your broker to determine: a) what this threshold is and b) what the cutoff time is for requesting that an option not be automatically exercised at the close on Expiration Friday.

For a look at today's options movers and commodities activity, head to page 2.

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