After Market: It's Spring on Wall Street and Stocks Are in Bloom

Historically, April has been the best month of the year for the Dow Industrials, and it got off to a good start. Stocks posted solid gains Tuesday, lifting the S&P 500 to a record high. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 75 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 13 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) jumped 69 points.

The market's gains were led by some of the biggest name Nasdaq stocks.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) gained nearly 4 percent, while Oracle (ORCL) and Microsoft (MSFT) both added more than 1 percent. Microsoft is at its highest level in about 14 years. Other widely traded Nasdaq stocks also gained. Tesla (TSLA) rose 4 percent, Facebook (FB) gained 4 percent, Netflix (NFLX) rose 3½ percent and Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) both gained 2 percent.

Yahoo also gained 1½ percent. It's in talks to buy News Distribution Network, the fourth largest online video service.

The other big story involved the automakers. General Motors (GM) edged lower on more bad news: the recall of another 1.3 million vehicles for safety issues, and the grilling CEO Mary Barra received on Capitol Hill. GM shares have taken a hit since the recalls began earlier this year. Still, the stock is up 23 percent from a year ago. Many analysts say the damage to GM stock price is likely to be temporary.

Meanwhile, Ford (F) jumped 4½ percent after reporting better-than-expected sales for last month.

Airlines had another stellar day. United (UAL) jumped 5 percent, while American (AAL) and Delta (DAL) both gained more than 3 percent.

Biotechs continued their bounce back. Pharmacyclics (PCYC) rose 7 percent and Celgene (CELG) gained 5 percent.

And casino operators rose on news of strong gaming numbers from Macau. Las Vegas Sand (LVS), Wynn (WYNN) and MGM (MGM) all gained about 2 percent.

Elsewhere, Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) jumped 12 percent after winning FDA approval for a new surgical system.

Finally, we have to throw in one loser for you. The Medicines Company (MDCO) fell 15 percent after a federal judge ruled against the company's challenge to patents held by a competitor.

What to Watch Wednesday:
  • Monsanto (MON) reports quarterly financial results before U.S. markets open.
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association reports weekly mortgage applications at 7 a.m. Eastern time.
  • ADP (ADP) releases its survey of private-sector hiring at 8:15 a.m.
  • The Commerce Department releases factory orders for February at 10 a.m.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the proposed merger of Comcast (CMCSA) (CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable (TWC).
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

7 Tax Tips for Investors
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After Market: It's Spring on Wall Street and Stocks Are in Bloom
The 1099 forms you received from brokerages and other financial institutions might not be the last ones they send. It's common for them to issue corrected versions a little later. Consider getting your tax return ready to go, then waiting until close to April 15 before submitting it. That way, you can incorporate any last-minute changes and avoid having to file an amended return.
Pay attention to when you sell any holding, because the capital gains tax rates differ for long-term and short-term holdings. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, which could top 30 percent. Long-term gains (those held for more than a year) get preferential rates, which are zero percent for those in low-income brackets and 15 percent for most of us.
If you own underwater stocks, consider selling them for a loss. You can use those losses to offset gains from other sales, reducing your taxes owed. You can always buy back the asset later, if you still believe in it -- just be sure to wait for 31 days to pass, to observe the "wash sale rule."
If you're planning to sell one or more holdings that will give you a really big gain, submit an amended W-4 form to increase your withholding, or send the IRS an estimated tax payment. Underpaying your taxes significantly during the year can lead to a penalty at tax time. You may be protected by a "safe harbor" provision, though, which can save you from having to jump through those hoops.
If you're planning to buy shares of a mutual fund, determine when it will distribute its dividends. Many funds do so near the end of the year, and when that happens, the fund's share price will drop by the amount of the distribution -- which is taxable to shareholders. It's better to just wait until after that payout to buy in.
Mutual funds with high turnover ratios (reflecting a lot of buying and selling in a fund) have expenses for these trades. It's worth favoring funds with low turnover ratios, especially index funds and index-tracking ETFs, which simply hold onto the mix of securities in a given index, without a lot of trading activity. (Index funds generally outperform their higher-turnover counterparts, too.)
Boost the power of your Individual Retirement Accounts by making your annual contributions early in the year, giving the funds more time to grow. Over decades, it can make a significant difference.
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