Wall Street Advances, Snaps Three-Day Losing Streak

By FOXBusiness

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Wall Street put an end to its three-day losing streak, rising modestly as traders cheered a mostly positive round of data on the U.S. economy, but remained cautious over Europe's debt crisis.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 45.3 points, or 0.38%, to 11,869, the S&P 500 climbed 3.9 points, or 0.32%, to 1,216 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.7 points, or 0.07%, to 2,541.

Stocks had a relatively muted session on the day as compared with the intense volatility felt earlier this week. Of the Dow components, health-based names like Merck (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) performed the strongest. Alcoa (NYSE:AA), the aluminum giant,struggled the most by a wide margin.

Data Deluge

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 366,000 last week -- the lowest level since May 2008 -- from 385,000 the week before. Economists had expected claims to rise to 390,000.

A report from the New York Federal Reserve on manufacturing in the New York region also easily topped expectations. The gauge hit 9.53 in December from an anemic 0.61 in November, and better than the reading of 3 economists had anticipated.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s manufacturing gauge climbed to 10.3 in December from 3.6 in November, besting forecasts of a reading of 5.

Prices at the producer level edged 0.3% higher in November from the month prior, a slightly quicker pace than the 0.2% economists had anticipated. Excluding the food and energy component, prices rose 0.1%, compared to estimates of a 0.2% increase.

On the negative side, industrial production fell 0.2% in November from the first time in seven months, missing estimates of a gain of 0.2%.

Upbeat News from Europe

News on the European front, which has been a major drive of market sentiment, was seen as upbeat as well. Spain had a successful bond auction in which it sold 6.028 billion euro worth of bonds maturing in 2016, 2020 and 2021. The target of the auction was a range of 2.5 billion euro to 3.5 billion, meaning there was demand for the country’s sovereign debt. The yields the country paid remained elevated, although were less than in recent offerings of similar notes.

The eurozone’s private sector contracted at a slower rate in December than in the month prior. Markit’s PMI gauge rose to 47.9 from 47 the month prior, topping expectations of a fall to 46.5. Readings below 50 point to contraction, while those above indicate expansion. The London-based consultancy said Germany and France, the eurozone’s biggest economies, led the advance.

Still, traders remained guarded on the Europe situation, with no clear resolution in sight. Indeed, closely-monitored Italian bond yields, sit just above 7%.

The euro gained 0.25% to $1.3011, while European blue chips climbed 0.86%.

Energy markets were down following the worst selloff in months. Oil fell $1.08, or 1.1%, to $93.87 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline dipped 0.64% to $2.4877 a gallon.

Gold, which was also pummeled on Wednesday, slid $9.70, or 0.61%, to $1,577 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips climbed 0.86%, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.63% to 5,401 and the German DAX rallied 0.98% to 5,731.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slid 1.7% to 8,377 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 1.8% to 18,027.

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