Wells Fargo: Financial Winner
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) and S&P 500 (SPX.X) saw slight gains and the NASDAQ Composite (^IXIC) was up 1%, as a slew of decent economic reports overshadowed investors' continued concerns over the Fiscal Cliff.
The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose slightly to close at 48.65, with all but seven index components ending the session with gains.
The U.S. Labor Department reported that for the week ended Nov. 24, seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims totaled 393,000, declining by 23,000 from the previous week's revised 416,000. The four-week moving average of initial unemployment claims was 405,250, increasing from the previous week's figure of 397.750. Economists on average had expected first-time claims to total 390,000, according to Briefing.com.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that its second estimate of U.S. gross domestic product growth during the third quarter showed an annual growth pace of 2.7% over the second quarter. With a "more complete source data," the estimate increased significantly from the "advance" estimate last month of a 2.0% third-quarter growth rate.
The National Association of Realtors said that pending home sales during October rose to their "highest level in over five years," increasing 5.2% from September and 13.2% above pending sales in October 2011. The organization's chief economist Lawrence Yun said that "We've had very good housing affordability conditions for quite some time, but we're seeing more impact now from steady job creation, and rising consumer confidence about home buying now that home prices have clearly turned positive."
Fiscal Cliff, Investors and Housing.
The expiration of tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush and extended by President Obama is the biggest immediate fear for investors if the U.S. "falls off the Fiscal Cliff," with no compromise between the president and the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on reducing the federal deficit by the end of the year.
While there's been plenty of cheerful talk from the president and Democratic leaders over a possible deal to avert the Fiscal Cliff, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that "despite the claims that the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts," according to a Reuters report .
An important concern for investors if the "Bush tax cuts" expire, is the end of the 15% federal income tax rate limitation on qualified dividend income, which includes most dividends on common and preferred stock. Under the current rules, if an investor's adjusted gross income keeps him or her under in the 15% tax bracket, the investor actually pays no federal taxes on the dividend income, so nearly all investors could see a massive new haircut to their dividend income.