Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Solidly Higher


Stocks posted solid gains Monday, as a selling mood over the last two weeks was overtaken by investors scooping up beaten-down shares. Investors were making adjustments to their portfolios near the year's end. Technology and financial stocks led the forward charge, which some saw as the beginning of a year-end rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial average finished ahead 193.83 points, or 2.30%, to 8,627.54. The broader Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 20.93 points, or 2.35%, to 910.41. The tech-laden Nasdaq moved ahead 37.99 points, or 2.79%, to 1,400.41.

Trading volume was light as a batch of key economic data is expected later in the week. Tuesday will bring numbers about industrial production. Later in the week, investors will get economic data on housing starts, inflation at the consumer level, jobless claims and a final read on third-quarter gross domestic product.

Chip-maker Nvidia (NVDA) announced it was ordering more semiconductors. The semiconductors sector, which gained 4.58% according to S&P's MarketScope, buoyed tech gains on Monday.

Merrill Lynch's bullish stance on Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) helped the computer-maker's stock rise. The Dow component finished the session higher by about 2%.

Another technology company rose on good news. Shares of InVision Technologies (INVN) gained 19% as the explosives detection device maker raised its fourth-quarter earnings forecast.

Investors moved back into General Electric (GE) after two rough weeks for the industrial conglomerate. The company announced it would raise its dividend for the 27th consecutive year. GE's shares were up more than 3% Monday.

Bad news from large retailers Monday seemed to have the opposite effect on retail stocks. Wal-Mart (WMT) said last week's sales were at the low end of expectations for December. Shares in the world's largest retailer were higher with the broader market upswing.

Also weighing in with pessimistic news before the opening bell, Federated Department Stores (FD) announced November and December sales in stores open at least a year would hit the low end of expectations.

Third, Target (TGT) fell on news reports that its credit card business faced rising default rates. However, the company said it expected robust sales results this holiday season. Shares in the discount retailer traded up about 2.7% Monday.

In Monday's economic news, home builders' optimism about the new home market rose, according to the National Association of Home Builders' index. The index rose to 65 in December from a revised 64 in November (previously 65), a two-year high following the revision.

The index has been on the rise most of the year, says economic research group MMS International, as mortgage rates have been on the decline. The 6-month average for the index was 62. Present conditions improved, while expectations slipped. The gauge of traffic of prospective buyers held at 48.

The Nasdaq Stock Market announced changes to the its Nasdaq 100 index effective Dec. 23. Technology was de-emphasized, while manufacturing and healthcare stocks were given more weight.

Crude oil futures topped $30 per barrel -- the highest level since mid-October -- in NYMEX trading following news that a U.S. judgement on the Iraq weapons declaration could come as early as the end of this week. Oil prices were already elevated because of the ongoing Venezuelan supply bottlenecks and political crisis.

Treasury Market

Prices of U.S. Treasuries slipped all session, facing pressure from positive economic data and climbing equity indexes. The uptick in the Empire State manufacturing index provided a signal that Thursday's manufacturing orders data from the Philadelphia Fed could be higher than expected. The 10-year issue's yield rose to 4.14%.

World Markets

European stocks finished higher Monday. In London, the FTSE index finished up 105.90 points, or 2.73%, to 3,984.00. Paris' CAC-40 index ended higher by 98.20, or 3.19%, to 3,175.05. In Frankfurt, the DAX index moved ahead 128.23 points, or 4.17%, to 3,205.29.

In Asia, however, stocks fell. Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished the day down 65.13 points, or 0.76%, to 8,450.94. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index fell 71.97 points, or 0.74%, to 9,656.46.


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