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Saturday, 24 December 2011 | 00:00
DJ30 PointChange: +124.05 Level: 12293.7 NASDAQ PointChange: +19.19 Level: 2618.64 SP500 PointChange: +11.30 Level: 1265.3 NASDAQ-Adv:1357 Dec: 1175 NYSE-Adv:2047 Dec: 968 BRIEFING.COM] Although the traditional "Santa Claus rally" period didn't officially start until today, Santa came early this year with a greater than 3.5% gain in equities on the week, which recoups last week's loss and then some. The S&P is now roughly flat on the year as we approach the final week of 2011.

While the action was constructive, this week was relatively quiet in terms of news flow. The week did start with a big piece of international news - the death of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Il. That event caused initial uncertainty across Asia as his son Kim Jong Un stepped into control. However, after initial weakness on Monday, most Asian markets spent the rest of the week advancing along with their western counterparts.

After a lackluster Monday performance, markets got a substantial lift on Tuesday following encouraging German sentiment data and a better-than-expected Spanish bond auction. After Tuesday's 3% gain, stocks edged higher on Wednesday and Thursday, amid relatively light corporate news flow and generally encouraging economic data. On Thursday, initial jobless claims data, the Michigan sentiment revision and leading indicators data all beat expectations, although the revision to Q3 GDP came in below expectations. Last night, Congress agreed to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, temporarily lifting some domestic political uncertainty. This morning, while the Nov. durable goods data beat expectations, spending came in below expectations and excluding aircraft, the durables orders weren't as strong as the headline number. However, markets managed to see follow-through strength to end the day higher by 0.7%.

Corporate news flow was light throughout the week. Oracle's (ORCL 26.06, +0.37) disappointing earnings report sent its stock down 12% on Wednesday, while American Greetings (AM 12.97, -0.42) fell 24% in the two days following its earnings report. There were a few pieces of M&A news announced, with WCA Waste Corp (WCAA 6.62, +0.23) being acquired by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners II for $6.50 per share in cash, representing a 33% premium. Delphi Financial (DFG 44.13, +0.12) gained more than 70% after announcing it would be acquired by Tokio Marine. Finally, Akamai (AKAM 31.93, +0.30) gained 15% after announcing it would acquire privately held content delivery company Cotendo for approximately $268 million.

Source: Briefing

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