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Market Recap: S&P Moves Positive, But Tech-Heavy Nasdaq Still in the Red for 2011

Markets closed up on Wall Street today:

  • Dow +1.02 percent
  • S&P+0.90 percent
  • Nasdaq +0.74 percent
  • Oil +0.23 percent
  • Gold -0.17 percent

On the commodities front:

  • Oil (NYSE:USO) climbed to $99.81 a barrel
  • Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling to $1,607.90 an ounce
  • Silver (NYSE:SLV) climbed 0.15 percent to settle at $29.09

(Related: What Are ECB Actions and Utility Stocks Saying About Gold?)

Today’s markets were up because:

1) U.S. Economic Data: Orders for U.S. durable goods jumped in November by the most in four months, helping to offset weaker-than-forecast consumer spending. Reports claim that the sales of new homes rose in November to a seven-month high, while auto sales were up 3 percent. But it is Thursday’s jobless claims report, which showed another weekly decline in initial unemployment benefits claims for the week ended December 17, that trumps all, as investors believe that we can "look forward” to a steadily declining unemployment rate.

2) Payroll Tax Cut: Congress passed a two-month payroll tax cut extension today, which is supposed to buy them more time to effect an extension that will keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent through 2012. Without any legislative action before December 31, the payroll tax rate would have jumped back up to 6.2 percent of wages on the first of the year, costing the average American $1,000.

3) Tech: After four days of gains, the S&P 500 cut its losses for the year, leaving the tech-heavy Nasdaq the only major U.S. index down for the year. Netflix has been a drag on the Nasdaq, as its share price more than halved this year, and fell from a $298 peak in July to $73 per share today. Still, the Nasdaq was up 0.74 percent today, led higher by Google and Apple, both of which will, short of a catastrophe, close the year significantly higher than they began trading on January 3. Both Google and Apple are still battling for mobile market share with their Android and iOS devices, but both have emerged triumphant as the market for both continues to expand at the expense of other phone makers.

[Editor’s note: the above is a cross post that originally appeared on Wall St. Cheat Sheet.]

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