This Is the Reason the S&P 500 Inched Higher


I know we're past Thanksgiving, but today was a day of thanks as we had more to talk about than just the looming fiscal cliff that threatens to boost taxes and cut spending across the board.

Stealing the headlines was the ADPemployment report, which showed that employers added about 118,000 jobs last month, considerably lower than the 157,000 added in October. Some of this could have to do with Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the Northeast, but we'll have to wait for the official report to get the full story.

Comments out of China that its government will keep pro-growth initiatives in place also boosted multinational companies operating overseas.

Although fiscal cliff worries caused the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) to limp into the close, it still finished modestly higher by 2.23 points (0.16%), to end at 1,409.28.

For a nice change of pace, large money-center banks Citigroup (NYS: C) and Bank of America (NYS: BAC) led the charge higher, with each up 6.3% and 5.7%, respectively.

Citigroup rallied big after announcing plans to cut 11,000 jobs -- about 4% of its workforce -- to save up to $1.1 billion annually. These cuts won't be strictly limited to jobs, either, and could end in asset sales to simplify operations. Needless to say, investors seem very pleased with new CEO Michael Corbat's proactive approach to business management.

Bank of America's rally today had a lot to do with the news out of Citigroup, as it, too, is slashing jobs to reduce expenses, but also came on the heels of news from the Mortgage Monitor Report in October that new foreclosure filings are dropping. With fewer bank-owned properties in its portfolio, Bank of America will be free to get back to doing what it does best: focus on traditional banking activities like lending and deposits!

Dragging the S&P 500 down today was copper giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYS: FCX) and the largest company on Earth, Apple (NAS: AAPL) .

The news out of Freeport today that it will be making two separate oil and gas purchases of McMoRan Exploration (NYS: MMR) and Plains Exploration & Production (NYS: PXP) for a combined $9 billion didn't sit well with investors, who pushed the stock down 16%. Freeport's focus will still come from its copper mines, but it's attempting to diversify its assets by returning to the energy business. Considering the uncertain nature of growth trends at the moment, the timing of the deal has even me scratching my head.

Tech giant Apple suffered its worst one-day percentage loss in nearly four years today, dropping 6.4% on worries that its margins may be pressured by competitors this holiday season. Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) has entered a very crowded tablet market, and there's still concern that the lower-margin iPad Mini may cannibalize larger and pricier iPad sales. I think investor worries are overblown and consider Apple a delectably inexpensive tech company.

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Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup, Bank of America, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Apple, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Automatic Data Processing and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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