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While you were sleeping: Intel, IBM advance

Tuesday 23rd December 2014

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Wall Street rose as gains in shares of Intel and IBM outweighed declines in shares of Chevron and Exxon Mobil, as investors positioned themselves for the end of the year. 

“It’s going to be pretty tough to divine anything meaningful from the market this week with Christmas coming up on Thursday and with trading desks half-staffed,” Michael James, a Los Angeles-based managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, told Bloomberg News.

“If anything, you’re likely to see more impetus to show more equity positions and less cash going into year end, and you’re likely to see short positions drawn down.”

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.57 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index inched 0.03 percent higher, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.13 percent.

Gains in shares of Intel and those IBM, up 2.1 percent each, propelled the Dow higher. 

Shares of Chevron and Exxon Mobil were among the Dow’s top three declining stocks, down 1.4 percent and 0.9 percent respectively, as oil prices dropped further on Saudi Arabia’s latest comments it will not cut production. 

"A decline like this means oil hasn't stabilised or found a bottom," Rex Macey, chief allocation officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Atlanta, Georgia, told Reuters. "While I'm comfortable with the level of the broader market, I don't think there are obvious bargains. Some may say oil stocks are bargains now, but it's too soon to say.”

Indeed, there might be worse to come. 

"The Saudis seem to be continuing with their game plan to shock prices lower by sticking it to the market that they will put more oil out if they have more customers for whatever price they are comfortable in selling," John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital, told Reuters.

"It seems like an all-out strategy on their part to finish all the weak players in the market who can't survive at sub-US$60 or even sub-US$50 oil,” Kilduff added.

Meanwhile, the American housing market showed further signs of falling out of step with an economy that’s otherwise looking buoyant. 

A National Association of Realtors report showed purchases of previously owned US homes fell more than expected last month, dropping 6.1 percent to a 4.93 million annual rate. It was the worst reading since May.

“Fewer people bought homes last month despite interest rates being at their lowest levels of the year,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a statement. “The stock market swings in October may have impacted some consumers’ psyches and therefore led to fewer November closings. Furthermore, rising home values are causing more investors to retreat from the market.”

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.5 percent advance from the previous close, as did the UK’s FTSE 100 Index. France’s CAC 40 Index added 0.3 percent, while Germany’s DAX Index rose 0.8 percent.

A European Commission report showed that December consumer confidence in the euro area rose more than expected, climbing to minus 10.9 from a revised minus 11.5 in November.

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