- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Stocks eke out tiny gains as Greece nears bailout
Question of the Day
U.S. stocks turned positive Monday afternoon, in a day of uneven trading plagued by investors’ fears about the approaching “fiscal cliff.”
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 42 points at 12,857 as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern time. It had been slightly lower for most of the day before turning decisively positive around 1 p.m.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose five points to 1,384. The Nasdaq composite added 12 to 2,916.
Trading was light. The federal government and the U.S. bond market were closed for Veterans Day, and there were no economic reports scheduled for release.
The fiscal cliff refers to government spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to kick in at the beginning of the new year, unless a divided Congress and the White House can work out a compromise before then.
Some traders thought the uncertain moves were nearly inevitable because there has been no strongly positive or negative news about the economy or the possibility of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
“Nothing good is going on,” said Scott Freeze, president of Street One Financial in Huntingdon Valley, Pa. “Everything forward-looking remains dreary.”
Last week, after voters returned a long-deadlocked divided government to Washington, the Dow dropped 434 points in two days and had one of its worst weeks of the year.
Even if lawmakers work out a compromise, as they usually do, the political fight until then is sure keep investors on edge, pitching the stock market back and forth until it’s resolved. Economists say the cliff could cost the economy $800 billion and 3 million jobs and would plunge the U.S. back into recession.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, have spoken of compromise but appear to be taking firm stances on some issues. Obama will meet with labor representatives as well as other progressive groups Tuesday. He’ll hold separate meetings with the business community Wednesday.
The effect on the markets has been widespread. Fiscal cliff worries were blamed for keeping a lid on European markets and Asian markets, which closed mostly lower.
In Greece, lawmakers passed a new austerity budget, and the other countries that use the euro issued a positive report on the country. Greece is hoping the other euro countries will give it another $40 billion in bailout loans. The budget and the report are crucial steps toward that goal.
Still, the new bailout isn’t a sure thing: Some of the potential lenders must seek approval from their parliaments. Greece’s main stock market index closed down 3.6 percent.
Freeze was among the underwhelmed. “At this point, all the Greek news is just noise,” he said. “None of these bailouts really solve the underlying problem. Now if all of a sudden Spain became incredibly solvent and its unemployment rate went to 5 percent, then you’d see” a reason to buy.
Across Europe, there were other reminders that the debt crisis is far from solved. The Banking Association of Spain, a country where hundreds of thousands of borrowers have fallen behind on their mortgages, said it would curb evictions of some struggling homeowners. In Portugal, demonstrators planned protests against a scheduled visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany helped bail out Portugal last year and insisted that the government there cut spending as a condition of getting the money, a sore point for some in Portugal.
Among U.S. stocks making big moves:
• Leucadia National announced it would buy the investment banking firm Jefferies Group. The Jefferies chief will run the combined company. Leucadia, a holding company with investments in an eclectic set of industries including beef processing and medical products, dropped nearly 5 percent, $1.01, to $20.79. Jefferies soared 12 percent, or $1.71, to $15.98.
• Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, jumped 7 percent after announcing it will buy Consorcio Comex, a privately held rival based in Mexico City. Its stock rose $9.86 to $150.70.
• Best Buy leapt after announcing it had named a new finance chief, a former executive of the upscale kitchen store Williams-Sonoma. Analysts hope the new numbers cruncher can help turn around a chain that has struggled to keep up with online competitors. Best Buy’s stock rose 4 percent, or 68 cents, to $15.98.
TWT Video Picks
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- EPSTEIN: All IRS roads lead to the archivist
- Border surge puts Obama legacy on immigration at stake
- Inside the Beltway: Republican posse rides out to fire Harry Reid
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- KUHNER: Will Russia-Ukraine be Europe's next war?
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq