After Market: Consumer Confidence Lifts Investor Confidence

A surprise jump in the Conference Board's monthly report on consumer confidence helped stocks bounce back after two straight days of selling.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 91 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) both gained about 8 points.

Some of the technology stocks that were hard hit on Monday steadied today. Facebook (FB) rose 1 percent. But some of the so-called momentum plays such as Netflix (NFLX) and Priceline (PCLN) continued to lose ground.

Biotech and health tech stocks also steadied after several down days. A closely followed biotech ETF edged higher. Celgene (CELG) and Gilead (GILD) gained ground, but Intercept Pharma (ICPT) fell 3.5 percent and Tesaro Pharma (TSRO) lost 4.5 percent.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%That consumer confidence report helped airlines. Delta (DAL) and American (AAL) both gained 3 percent and Southwest (LUV) added more than 1 percent.

Alternative energy stocks powered ahead. Plug Power (PLUG) soared 49 percent after MarketWatch reported the company expects to announce a big contract with a major automaker. Ballard Power (BLDP) rallied 31 percent and Fuelcell Energy (FCEL) jumped 20 percent.

But some retailers, especially those aimed at teens and young adults, were on the defensive. Aeropostale (ARO) slid 6.5 percent on worries about its earnings. The stock has lost about 60 percent over the past year. Wet Seal (WTSL) slid 12 percent and the women's apparel retailer Cache (CACH) fell 13 percent as its loss widened.

We're between earnings seasons, except for these companies:

The restaurant chain Sonic (SONC) boomed. It gained 10 percent on better than expected earnings.

The spice maker McCormick (MCK) rose 5.5 percent. It too beat expectations.

But Carnival Cruise (CCL) fell 5 percent. It issued a disappointing outlook. It's booking more rooms, but at lower prices as it tries to repair its reputation after some disastrous cruise publicity last year.

And G-III Apparel (GIII) also issued a weak outlook, sending the stock down nearly 5 percent. The company makes store brand clothes for many leading department stores.

What to Watch Wednesday:
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association releases weekly mortgage applications at 7 a.m. Eastern time.
  • The Commerce Department releases durable goods for February at 8:30 a.m.
  • Markit releases its March survey of purchasing managers in the service sector at 9:45 a.m.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

7 Most-Missed Tax Deductions and Credits
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After Market: Consumer Confidence Lifts Investor Confidence
Our lives are busy, and taxpayers may forget what donations they gave last year may get them a bigger refund. If you cleaned out your bulging closet and dropped off clothing or household goods at your favorite charity, don't forget this may be deductible on your tax return.
Taxpayers taking a full course load and working toward a degree can receive education benefits through the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses, but those who took even just one class to further their career may be able to take the tuition and fees deduction. With this credit, you can deduct up to $4,000 for tuition and fees, books and educational supplies for you, your spouse or dependents. This tax deduction is especially important to remember if you qualify because the offer expires after tax year 2013.
Taxpayers can deduct state income taxes, but what about people who live in states that don't have a state income tax? The state and local sales tax deduction is useful for those who don't pay state income tax because they can deduct sales tax paid on purchases. Even people who live in states that pay state income tax can benefit if they paid more sales tax due to large purchases. This is another tax that is going away after the 2013 tax year, so don't miss out on this one.
The earned income tax credit is a refundable tax credit given to filers who earn low- to moderate- income from their jobs. The credit can be worth up to $6,044, depending on income and how many dependents you have, but one in five tax filers overlook this opportunity, according to the Internal Revenue Service. You have to file your taxes in order to get it, so even if you make less than $10,000 (the IRS' minimum income filing requirement) you should still file your taxes.
If you were looking for a job last year, you may be able to deduct costs related to your job search – even if you didn't secure a new one. Job search expenses such as preparing and sending resumes, fees to placement agencies and even travel related to searching for a new job can be included.
This credit is often overlooked and seldom talked about, but if you have an income up to $29,500 ($59,000 for married filing jointly) you can save for retirement and get an tax credit worth up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples if you contributed to a qualifying retirement plan such as an individual retirement account or 401(k). The retirement savers tax credit is a win-win situation since contributions to your IRA may also be a deduction from income.
Taxpayers who weren't so lucky gambling last year should know that their losses can be deducted if they itemize their deductions. However, your amount of losses cannot surpass your winnings, which must be reported as taxable income. For example, if you have $2,000 in winnings and $4,000 in losses, your deduction is limited to $2,000. Make sure you have documentation such as receipts, tickets and other records to support your losses.
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