U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday boosted by tech shares, with the S&P 500 (^GPSC) and Dow industrials (^DJI) closing at records, while the energy sector was once more the largest weight on the market as crude prices continued to flirt with multi-year lows.
Apple (AAPL) led S&P 500 gains, closing up 1.2 percent at $119 per share. Seven of the top 10 points gainers in the index on Wednesday were in the tech sector. Hewlett-Packard (HP) Apple and chipmakers were among the largest advancers, with the PHLX semiconductor index closing up 2.1 percent to its highest since June 2001. Analog Devices (ADI) jumped 5.5 percent to $54.56, leading the sector a day after posting results. Hewlett-Packard rose 4.1 percent to $39.16 the day after reporting fourth-quarter earnings.
Trading was relatively light, with 4.8 billion shares changing hands compared to the daily average this month of about 6.3 billion. The stock market will be closed on Thursday, while Friday will be a half-day session with the close at 1 p.m.
Mixed Signals on the Economy
U.S. consumer spending rose modestly in October and a measure of business spending plans fell for a second straight month, but consumer confidence was near a 7-1/2-year high suggesting the economy remains resilient in the face of faltering global demand.
"On balance, data was still supportive of reasonable strength in the economy," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois. He said the optimism on holiday shopping was a reason behind gains in chipmakers. "PC sales have been a drag and there may be some hope we see a pick-up."
By the Numbers
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.81 points, or 0.07 percent, to 17,827.75, the S&P 500 gained 5.8 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,072.83 and Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 29.07 points, or 0.61 percent, to 4,787.32.
The S&P's energy sector fell 1.1 percent, taking the declines in the past three sessions to 3.4 percent. Crude prices fell as after OPEC increased signals that it would hold off making any major production cuts this week.
U.S.-traded Seadrill (SDRL) shares tumbled 22.8 percent to $15.99 after it stopped dividend payments to help it weather a slump in offshore drilling rig market rates.
NYSE advancers outnumbered decliners 1,903 to 1,159, for a 1.64-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,644 issues rose and 1,047 fell for a 1.57-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 54 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 104 new highs and 35 new lows.
What to watch Thursday:
Thanksgiving Day -- U.S. financial markets will be closed.
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Ideally, you've been tracking your spending all year. What were your spending patterns? Did you go over or under in a certain category? Take a look at what you actually spent versus what you had budgeted for. Do you need to change your expectations? Review your financial goals from last year and consider whether they will work for you in the coming year and make the necessary adjustments. If you paid off a loan, see if you can redirect that money into a paying off another debt or adding to a savings or retirement account. Don't let the money get eaten up by miscellaneous expenses. If you don't have a budget, start one now. Mint.com, Level and Check are all good free budgeting tools with features to help you create a budget from scratch, track your spending and set financial goals.
You're entitled to one free yearly credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you space the reports out, you can get one every four months. Get a report now so you know where you stand before heading into the new year. Look over your report and check for errors or negative information. If your credit history could use some improvement, make 2015 the year you get back on track.
That means checking your balances, interest rates, and cash back or other rewards. Call for a rate reduction if you think you might be paying too much in interest. Make a large payment if you are carrying debt and have extra cash in the bank. If you can't pay down a chunk of the debt you accumulated this year, create a debt repayment plan that will get it down next year.
Making just one extra mortgage payment each year can cut your loan down by years, saving you thousands in interest. Also, making an extra mortgage payment means you can claim an extra month of mortgage interest deductions in 2014. If you can't afford an extra payment, make January's payment before the first of the month. If the payment gets credited before Jan. 1, 2015, it will still be tax-break-eligible for 2014. You'll be covered for your January payment and you'll get an additional tax benefit.
If you haven't already, make a contribution to a 401(k), individual retirement account or SEP IRA if you are self-employed. You can contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA - $6,500 if you're 50 or older. A 401(k) pre-tax contribution must be made through a payroll deduction, so talk to your payroll administer now before it's too late. Some people put off making IRA contributions until April's tax deadline, but you'll be missing out on up to six months of potential investment growth. Don't wait - just do it now.
Look over your health, life, homeowners, renters and car insurance plans. Do you need to adjust your coverage, premiums or add any dependents? Do you need to purchase new coverage, like life or disability? Did you get married, have a baby or buy a house? Do you have any changes coming in 2015 that you need to plan for? Those life events all trigger insurance changes. P.S.: If any of those are yeses, you might need to change your W-2, too.
It's time to finally automate your bills and savings. The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be in 2015. Automating helps you pay your bills on time and maintain a regular savings plan. This is also a good time to cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren't using: video and music streaming, magazines, premium subscriptions, etc.
Recent fluctuations in the stock market might have left you unbalanced. Take a minute to make sure you aren't too heavily weighted toward one asset class. This will help you remain on track to reach your retirement goals by rebalancing to match your target allocations. If you have losses in any taxable account holdings, you might want to consider tax-loss harvesting to offset any gains or ordinary income. You can also consider tax-gain harvesting to reduce longer-term capital gains tax rates. If all this sounds overwhelming, talk to your retirement plan administrator or a certified financial planner for assistance.
If are going to itemize deductions on your 2014 tax return, consider making a charitable contribution to a cause you believe in. The donation must be made to a qualifying organization and the tax benefit only saves you a fraction of what you donate, but you'll be supporting a good cause.
If you have a Flexible Spending Account for health care or other qualifying expenses, now is the time to submit any outstanding claims. You can only carry over $500 from one year to the next, so get those claims in now. This is the perfect excuse to make those doctor appointments you've been putting off all year.