The looming Fed taper has been the talk of Wall Street for months, but it still came as a surprise to investors when it actually happened. Stocks rallied Wednesday following the Fed's decision to cut its $85 billion a month purchase of bonds by $10 billion, beginning in January. Outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy continues to "make progress."
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) soared 292 points on the news, its third biggest one-day gain this year. The Dow also hit a closing high, as did the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC), which gained 29 points. And the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 46 points.
Consider it Bernanke's final present to the market before he retires from his position atop the Fed.
Among the big blue chip winners, 3M (MMM) rose 3 percent, while Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX) and Goldman Sachs (GS) all rose 2 percent.
But Microsoft (MSFT) was flat, reflecting across the board weakness in tech stocks.
Many of the biggest players on the Nasdaq lost ground despite the overall market rally. Apple (AAPL) and Twitter (TWTR) ended lower and Tesla (TSLA) lost nearly 3 percent.
Part of the reason for the tech weakness was an earnings miss and a weak forecast from Jabil Circuits (JBL), a key maker of electronics. Its shares plunged 20 percent.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But homebuilders were strong following a report showing that housing starts last month rose to highest level in nearly six years. Lennar (LEN), which also posted strong earnings, jumped 6 percent. William Lyon Homes rose 4 percent, KB Homes (KBH) and Toll Brothers (TOL) each rose 3.5 percent.
Ford (F) shares skidded more than 6 percent after lowering its profit forecast for next year. The company also warned that it may not meet its target for 2015 and 2016. In part, Ford blames the high expenses tied its planned launch of a record number of new vehicles next year.
Finally, the movie theater chain AMC Entertainment (AMC) rose 5 percent from its $18 a share IPO price. This is expected to the last of 222 IPOs to hit the market this year.
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for November; Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates; and the Conference Board releases leading indicators for November.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
After Market: Fed Taper Taps the Gas Pedal on Stocks
This is my personal favorite! Think of yourself as a regular monthly bill you have to pay. All you have to do is arrange to have a set amount of money directly deposited from your paycheck into a savings account each month.
I recommend using a separate savings account because if you have access to your funds in your checking account, you're more likely to spend them. Again, it might hurt a bit at first to take home a little less every month, but trust me, after a while you won't even notice it's gone. Here's a moment when the "set it and forget it" strategy works wonders.
It feels great to be rewarded for your hard work. And it feels even better to spend that hard-earned bonus on something you’ll enjoy, like a trip to France or an iPad. At the same time, the pleasure of a vacation or new gadget is short-lived compared to financial security.
So make a pact with yourself to put every bonus you get from here on out to good use. If you direct 90 percent of your bonuses straight into your savings account as a rule, you’ll still have 10 percent to treat yourself with (plus the comfort of knowing that you're building a well-earned safety net). I live by this rule.
OK, OK, this seems like an obvious one -- and easier said than done. Actually, most people spend money on more unnecessary items than they think. So take time to look at where your money is going in detail and begin to cut back. Saving $10 here and there could help you put a lot away in the long run.
Many banks offer seasonal accounts meant to save for holidays like Christmas. These accounts give you reduced access to your accounts, charging a hefty penalty each time you withdraw more than permitted. Since emergencies don't occur often, a seasonal account could make sure you're touching it only when needed (just make sure you're not tempted to blow it all on Christmas gifts).
I love this one. Chalk it up to my massive craving for organization, but I'm all about getting rid of things I no longer use. Rather than throwing these unused goods away, start selling them, and put that money into your emergency fund. All you need to do is post them to a site like eBay or Craigslist or Amazon and you can get rid of items from the comfort of your home. You can also take your clothes to a consignment shop to have them sold for you.
Instead of saving your pennies, put aside any $5 bills that come your way. Never spend a $5 bill again, and you'll be surprised by how quickly this silly trick will help you come up with a few hundred dollars to add to an emergency fund.
You could pick up odd jobs via websites like TaskRabbit.com, DoMyStuff.com, Elance.com, FreelanceSwitch.com or Sitters.com.
If you get a cash-back reward for any spending on your credit card, just make it a rule that those dollars will be dedicated to your freedom fund. It may only add up to $100 extra each year, depending on your spending, but every little bit counts.