Dow Settles at One-Month High Ahead of Closely Watched Payrolls Report

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) spent most of the session dawdling north of breakeven, as Wall Street applauded a tech-sector rebound and encouraging data ahead of tomorrow's highly anticipated nonfarm payrolls report. Nevertheless, the bulls remained somewhat cautious amid the ongoing fiscal-cliff standoff, as well as the European Central Bank's (ECB) downwardly revised economic forecast for 2013.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) ended just off its session high, tacking on almost 40 points, or 0.3%, to settle at its loftiest level since Nov. 6. Just nine of the Dow's 30 blue chips bucked the trend, with Alcoa ( AA ) ending flat and AT&T ( T ) giving up 0.8%. On the other hand, Intel ( INTC ) led the 21 advancing big-caps, adding 1.6%.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX) also finished near an intraday acme, gaining 4.7 points, or 0.3%. Meanwhile, the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite (COMP) fared the best of its peers, gaining 15.6 points, or 0.5%. However, the COMP's upward momentum stalled in the round-number 3,000 region.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) also settled in the black, adding about 0.7%, and bringing its week-to-date gain to roughly 4.5%.

CLOSING SUMMARY - INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY - NYSE AND NASDAQ

A Trader's Take

"Markets were relatively flat today, as financial stocks gave back some of their gains from yesterday and Apple ( AAPL ) finally had a positive day after a rough stretch this week," said Senior Equity Analyst Joe Bell. "While AAPL finally showed a glimmer of hope, only time will tell if the bounce lasts. But after a tough string of losses, investors were sure glad it finally caught a bid near its November low."

What's more, said Bell, Wall Street seemed to shrug off lackluster headlines from overseas. "News from Europe didn't help, as Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece to 'Select Default' from 'CCC.' This is just the latest in a string of meaningless downgrades from Standard & Poor's, and did little to shake the market."

Economic and Earnings News :

Initial jobless claims fell by 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, reported the Labor Department, down from the previous week's upwardly revised 395,000. The drop was healthier than expected, as economists expected 375,000 claims for the latest week. The four-week moving average of first-time jobless claims edged up by 2,250 to 408,000.

Planned job cuts jumped 34% in November on a year-over-year basis, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, arriving at 57,081 -- making it the second-worst month for layoffs in 2012, behind only May's 61,887 cuts. However, were it not for the 18,500 pink slips doled out by Hostess last month, planned job cuts would have actually declined from November 2011 levels.

The mood brightened on Wall Street during the week ended Dec. 5, according to the latest survey by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII). The percentage of respondents with a bullish view on stocks climbed to 42.2% from 40.9%, even as the percentage bearish inched up to 34.6% from 34.4%. Meanwhile, the percentage neutral retreated to 23.2% from 24.7%.

STOCKS - EARNINGS

More Stocks Making News :

For today's activity in commodities, options, and more, head to page 2.

In the Options Pits :

STOCKS - MOVERS

STOCKS - NOTABLE CALL ACTIVITY

STOCKS - NOTABLE PUT ACTIVITY

Commodities

Oil futures extended their losing streak into a third consecutive session, pressured by Wednesday's bearish U.S. inventories report and a gloomy economic forecast out of the euro zone. Crude for January delivery dropped $1.62, or 1.8%, to finish at $86.26 per barrel.

Gold futures ended the day on positive ground, as a revived safe-haven bid overshadowed a stronger U.S. dollar. February-dated gold gained $8, or 0.5%, to finish at $1,701.80 per ounce.

SCHAEFFER'S MARKET POSTURE

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: AA , AAPL , INTC , T , ZNGA

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