Fiscal cliff negotiations were in focus today. First the scoreboard:
Dow Jones: 13,252.89, -98.07 (-0.73%)
S&P 500: 1,435.85, -10.94 (-0.76%)
Nasdaq: 3,044.52, -10.01 (-0.33%)
And now, the top stories:
- This morning, housing starts came in below expectations, falling 3 per cent in November. However, building permits were a positive surprise, rising 3.6 per cent. Separately, the AIA Architectural Billings Index, seen as a leading indicator for commercial real estate, registered its best reading since 2007.
- After House Speaker John Boehner introduced “Plan B” yesterday as part of the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations, the White House slammed the plan this morning, saying President Obama would veto a bill if it reached his desk. “Plan B” involves Republicans accepting tax hikes on Americans making $1 million or more, while the White House wants hikes on everyone making over $250,000.
- Speaker Boehner responded this afternoon by giving a brusque press conference – clocking in at under a minute in length – before leaving the podium abruptly without taking questions. “Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for every American,” Boehner said. “Then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill. Or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”
- Around 10:30 AM, when the Department of Energy released its weekly figures on oil stockpiles, WTI crude oil futures surged. Although oil stockpiles decreased less than expected, distillate inventories dropped nearly 1.1M barrels despite expectations of a 1M-unit expansion.
- President Obama delivered a separate press conference on gun violence today, introducing a task force to address the growing problem highlighted by Friday’s tragic shooting. However, stocks of gun manufacturers, which have sold off substantially this week, were unfazed by the news, rebounding from their recent lows.
- CNBC reported this afternoon that hedge funder Bill Ackman is short Herbalife stock, sending shares nearly 9 per cent lower. Herbalife stock was plagued earlier this year by speculation that another big hedgie, David Einhorn, may have been short the stock.
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