After Market: Upbeat Economic News and Calm in Crimea Propel Stocks Higher

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Stocks Tuesday added to Monday's big gains, showing investors are not afraid of Vladimir Putin. Instead, investors focused on some more upbeat economic news, ignoring the latest moves by Russia to annex Crimea. The rationale for the market reaction is that thus far, the troubles in Ukraine have continued without any new violence.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 89 points; that's on top of yesterday's 181 point rally. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 53 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 13 points.

Microsoft (MSFT) led both blue chips and tech stocks. It jumped 4 percent to its highest level in more than 13 years. The company is reportedly ready to release a version of its popular Office software package for the Apple iPad. Analysts say that could add more than $1 billion in new revenue.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) rose 3½ percent as the stock was upgraded by Barclay's, despite the fact that it's been on a tear lately. Over the past six months, HP shares have jumped more than 40 percent. Also in the tech sector, Micron Technology (MU) gained 2 percent and Google (GOOG) added more than 1 percent.

Healthcare, drug and biotechs also had a good day. Amgen, (AMGN) United Healthcare (UNH), Pfizer (PFE), HCA (HCA), and Gilead (GILD) all posted solid gains.

Elsewhere, Future Fuel (FF) jumped 17 percent after the biofuels company posted a four-fold increase in earnings.

Penn Virginia (PVR) gained 15 percent. Investor George Soros raised his stake in the oil and gas company.

Fossil Group (FOSL) rose 4 percent. It's working with Google (GOOG) on Android-based wearables.

Some high-end fashion companies – Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade – gained on positive comments from Barclay's, but it put a 'sell' on Michael Kors, which fell 2 percent.

Also losing ground today:
  • GameStop (GAME) fell 3½ percent on news that it's getting a new competitor. Retail giant Walmart (WMT) plans to begin buying and selling used video games.
  • The photo website Shutterfly (SFLY) fell 5 percent as Cowen cut its rating to "underperform."
  • And WiFi provider Towerstream (TWER) fell 7 percent after posting weaker than expected earnings.

What to Watch Wednesday:
  • The Commerce Department releases the U.S. current account trade measure for the fourth quarter at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • Federal Reserve policymakers meet to set interest rates; statement and projections due at 2:00 p.m.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holds a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial statements:
  • FedEx (FDX)
  • General Mills (GIS)
  • Guess (GES)
  • K.B. Home (KBH)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

8 Zen Tips for Tax Time
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After Market: Upbeat Economic News and Calm in Crimea Propel Stocks Higher

Don't parse every receipt and monthly bank statement, says Wenli Wang, a partner in the tax practice at Moss Adams in San Francisco. "Do some homework, so you know what is deductible and what is not," she says. "When you understand what is relevant to your tax prep, you’ll have a game plan."

"Clients spend a lot of time chasing small deductions. I tell them not to go crazy documenting $5 here or $10 there. Concentrate on bigger expenses that save the most in taxes," Wang adds. "And don’t spend money on unnecessary expenses just to save on your taxes."

Start with one of the many free checklists available. Here are a few from the IRS, its affiliate, TurboTax, or FreshBooks.

Avoid such audit triggers as running a cash business, claiming large deductions on minimal income, and reporting dependent exemptions for people who may not actually be your dependents for tax purposes, says Ebong Eka, a Washington accountant and author of "Start Me Up: The No-Business-Plan Business Plan."

If you report a business loss year after year, you risk having the IRS declare your company a hobby, says Mark MacLeod, an accountant and chief financial officer for FreshBooks. "Filling in your Schedule C with nice, even, rounded numbers in the hundreds or thousands is another red flag," he adds.

Buy an accounting system that automates your back office tasks, including tracking income and tax-deductible expenses. There are free and low-cost software packages available, too. FreshBooks' MacLeod -- who obviously has a dog in the fight -- advises business owners to steer clear of software that's designed for professional accountants. "If it's too complicated, you won't understand it and then you won’t use it," he says.
Spare your sanity by hiring a professional who will do right by your tax return while you work for your clients or drum up new business. "What is your time worth?" MacLeod asks. "If you're a graphic designer charging $100 an hour or more, do you want to spend hours on taxes?"

Running late and wilting under the pressure? "File an extension," Berger advises. "If you wait until the last minute, you'll make a lot of mistakes and you could miss the deadline anyway."

If you owe money, pay up. Or at least pay part of your liability and get on a payment plan for the rest. "Clients worry about owing money they don't have. But it's important to file your return on time, or file an extension at least," Berger says. Putting it off will only result in fines and penalties down the line -- not a prospect that invites much in the way of zen.

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