U.S. markets close higher on optimism for budget deal

A report from the National Association for Business

A report from the National Association for Business Economics on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, leads a week of reports on housing. These traders worked the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. (Dec. 14, 2012) (Credit: AP)

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Stocks closed higher Monday as forces in Washington appeared to be moving toward a deal to resolve the threat of the "fiscal cliff."

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 100.4 points at 13,235.4, near its highest point of the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 16.8 points to close around 1,430.4, and the Nasdaq composite was up 39.3 points at 3,010.6.

In Washington, House Speaker John Boehner met with President Barack Obama after Boehner made concessions on increasing tax rates on some of the income for the wealthy.

Banks had some of the biggest gains after a brokerage raised its target price for Citigroup. Bank of America also rose.

Rising stocks outnumbered falling ones two to one on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 3.3 billion shares, below the recent average.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, stock traders paused for a minute of silence at 9:15 a.m. to remember the 20 children and seven adults killed Friday in a gunman's rampage through an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn.

If congressional Republicans and the White House can't reach a deal by Jan. 1, tax cuts enacted a decade ago for all Americans will expire, and government programs will be cut across the board. Some economists fear the combination could plunge the U.S. economy back into a recession.

Wall Street has been relatively calm in recent weeks, but David Kelly, chief global strategist for J.P. Morgan Funds, said that by Friday the market will be "squarely focused on what is or is not happening in Washington."

He suggested in a note to clients that the markets will not have "priced in" any outcome, "setting the stage for a market rally with an agreement and a slump with stalemate."

Clearwire slid 46 cents to close at $2.91 after Sprint announced terms of its buyout deal for the wireless Internet access company. Sprint's price of $2.97 per share was below Clearwire's closing stock price Friday.

A survey of top business economists released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics found that most expected modest economic growth in 2013, led by rising demand for housing.

Later this week, investors will get data on housing starts and existing home sales, plus a final read from the government on economic growth from July through September.

Personal income and spending figures out Friday could offer a read on consumer spending behavior at the start of the holiday shopping season, Kelly wrote to clients.

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