After Market: Optimistic Fed Report Sends S&P to Another High

The S&P 500 edged up to another record high Wednesday, but the market remained locked in a narrow trading range. The major averages have been remarkably steady over the past two weeks, even though that could change with the release Friday of the government's monthly unemployment report.

ADP said Wednesday that private sector hiring slowed a bit in May from April. But the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report showed growth picking up across the country. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 15 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 3, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 17 points.

Most big name tech and Internet stocks moved higher. Apple (AAPL) rose 1½ percent, while Facebook (FB) and Netflix (NFLX) both gained about 1 percent.

But Pandora (P) shareholders are singing the blues. The music streaming company's stock edged lower as federal investigators look at the royalty rates the company pays to songwriters. Higher rates could cut into profits. Pandora shares are still up 70 percent from a year ago, but well off their highs from back in March.

Federal action helped light a fire under solar stocks. The Commerce Department proposed new import duties on solar panels made in China. SunPower (SPWR) rose 7 percent, SunEdison (SUNE) rose 6 and First Solar (FSLR) gained 4 percent.

And General Motors (GM) jumped another 3½ percent one day ahead of the release of an independent report on the fiasco over the company's faulty ignition switches. It's expected to cast a harsh light on the GM, but say that CEO Mary Barra did not know the extent of the problem prior to taking the top job.

Elsewhere, a couple of firms got a boost from brokerage upgrades. Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) rose 4½ percent as Morgan Stanley upped its rating to "overweight."

Under Armour (UA) gained 5 percent as Jefferies raised its rating to "buy."

But Coach (COH) fell 2½ percent on a Sterne Agee downgrade to "neutral." Coach shares have lost a third of their value over the past year.

Finally, Walgreen (WAG) rose 4 percent as a key measure of sales topped expectations.

What to Watch Thursday:
  • The Labor Department reports weekly applications for unemployment benefits at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • General Motors (GM) is scheduled to release its investigation into the delayed recall of small cars with defective ignition switches, blamed for at least 13 deaths, at 9 a.m.
  • Freddie Mac reports weekly mortgage rates at 10 a.m.
These major companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial statements:
  • Cooper Cos. (COO)
  • Diamond Foods (DMND)
  • J.M. Smucker (SJM)
  • Men's Wearhouse (MW)
  • Navistar International (NAV)
  • Vail Resorts (MTN)
  • Vera Bradley (VRA)
  • Verifone Systems (PAY)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

10 Tough Financial Questions You Must Ask Your Soon-to-Be Spouse
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After Market: Optimistic Fed Report Sends S&P to Another High
Your credit score can affect your ability to start a family, buy a house or replace a car. Once you've married, your partner's credit score can be your problem, too, and it's not one you want to find out about after you file a loan application. Hint: It's a bad sign if your intended can't or won't answer this question.
Most of us consider this to be a closely guarded secret, but you can't hide it from your soon-to-be spouse for long. Nor should you. As you plan a life together, you need to know that both of you have realistic hopes and expectations about the lifestyle you'll enjoy.
You should know whether the person you're about to marry is living paycheck-to-paycheck. Many young people just starting out haven't banked much, and can't. But together you can work out a plan to establish an emergency fund covering three to six months of expenses.
A truly embarrassing question, but one that must be asked. Marrying someone makes their debt yours, too. And a substantial debt can wreck the lifestyle you want together. There is a worst-case scenario here: If the person you're planning to marry is skipping out on obligations like a student loan, credit card payments or child support, you might rethink your choice of partner. If your loved one just has poor spending habits, work it out together now.
As a couple, you need to decide whether you will keep your money in separate or joint bank accounts. Kadish notes that many couples opt for both, with a joint account for family expenses and separate personal accounts to cover day-to-day spending. Agreeing in advance on their use prevents squabbles later, not to mention the potential for bounced checks.
Talk about whether the health coverage each of you has is adequate to your needs as a couple. You may find that your partner's policy is better than yours, and that you can opt into it.
You or your spouse may have other job benefits that affect your joint planning. If, for example, one of you is eligible for a pension, that's a factor in your retirement planning. In any case, there's paperwork to be done, like adding your spouse's name as a beneficiary.
As a couple, you need to hash out your expectations for day-to-day life, and month-to-month spending. Will you eat out often? Is an annual vacation necessary to your well-being? Would you rather sit on the floor than buy furniture on credit? You need to understand each other's priorities. And if you're wise, you'll craft a spending plan that formalizes those priorities, so you're not spending carelessly.
Your retirement benefits are an asset that each of you brings to the marriage. You need to know what each of you is contributing now, and make changes if necessary. If, for example, your partner has a better 401(k) matching plan, it could affect your joint savings decisions.
You're getting ready to share the rest of your life with another person. Make sure you share dreams and aspirations as well. The colorless phrase "financial goals" covers a host of expectations for your life ahead. But you can't reach those goals without a plan -- so start crafting it now.
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