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MARKETS SNAPSHOT FOR 20/12/11

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 | 00:18
DJ30 PointChange: +337.32 Level: 12103.58 NASDAQ PointChange: +80.59 Level: 2603.73 NQ100 PercentChange: +3.0 R2K PercentChange: +4.2 SP400 PercentChange: +3.5 SP500 PointChange: +35.95 Level: 1241.3 NASDAQ-Adv:2198 Dec: 465 NYSE-Adv:2687 Dec: 375 BRIEFING.COM] The risk trade was flipped back on today. That brought about a barrage of buying that drove stocks up from December closing to their best single-session gain of the month.

Stocks settled the prior session in weak fashion by closing at their lowest levels of December, but the tone of trade improved overnight with help from Europe. In contrast to the action on Monday, Europe's bourses were able to sustain strong gains, which were underpinned by strong demand and lower yields at Spain's latest debt auction. A few solid business and consumer sentiment surveys from Europe also helped bolster confidence.

Stronger sentiment across the Atlantic also spurred the euro sharply higher. It finished shy of its session high, but still booked a 0.5% gain.

Domestic stocks were quick to build on opening gains. Their ascent seemed to slow only briefly when the S&P 500 crossed its 50-day moving average and again before it passed last week's closing low. The stock market's climb was likely made easier by a lack of share volume. That said, participation did pick up into the close.

Commodities also scored strong gains, giving the CRB Index a 2.0% gain today. It hasn't made such a strong move since October. Its climb was helped by the dollar's downturn.

The combination of broad market strength and support for commodities made natural resource plays some of the session's best performers. Materials stocks and energy stocks collectively climbed close to 4%.

Financials were also leaders. The sector settled with a near 4% gain of its own, undeterred by steps proposed by the Federal Reserve to strengthen regulation and supervision of large bank holding companies or those designated to be systemically important. Many were unsurprised that the Fed would want risk-based capital and leverage requirements.

Big gains by homebuilders sent the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB 16.79, +0.84) more than 5% higher. The group was helped by news that housing starts and building permits for November hit annualized rates of 685,000 units and 681,000 permits, respectively. Economists polled by Brieifng.com had expected housing starts to hit a pace of 627,000 units and building permits to reach a clip of 633,000 permits.

CVS Caremark (CVS 39.80, +3.24) was one of the better performing individual names. An in-line earnings outlook wasn't a big deal, but the company's decision to hike its dividend by 30% prompted a positive response.

AT&T (T 29.12, +0.38) ended its bid for Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA. That decision led to a downgrade from analysts at JP Morgan, but the stock was still able to score a solid gain.

General Mills (GIS 39.27, -0.32) was one of the few stocks that failed to gain today. The stock was hurt by a disappointing quarterly report that featured an earnings miss. Nike (NKE 93.63, +0.25) managed to muster a modest gain, but the stock had a difficult time sustaining support ahead of its quarterly report.

Advancing Sectors: Energy +4.0%, Materials +3.9%, Financials +3.8%, Industrials +3.4%, Tech +3.1%, Consumer Discretionary +2.8%, Health Care +2.1%, Utilities +2.1%, Telecom +1.9%, Consumer Staples +1.9%
Declining Sectors: (None)

Source: Briefing

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