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TheStreet Open House

Stocks Swell on Deal to Avert 'Fiscal Cliff'; Dow Surges 308 Points

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages roared Wednesday as global risk appetite surged on the first trading day of the year after the House managed to pass the Senate's 11th-hour agreement on averting the "fiscal cliff."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 308 points, or 2.4%, to 13,413. The blue-chip index had its biggest single-day gain since Nov. 19.

All 30 components in the Dow traded higher. The top percentage blue-chip gainers were Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Caterpillar (CAT), AT&T (T), Coca-Cola (KO) and Intel (INTC).

Hewlett-Packard is evaluating the sale of businesses that don't meet goals more than a year after CEO Meg Whitman said she didn't plan to spin off the PC division, according to a Bloomberg report. Shares advanced 5.1% on Wednesday.

Intel's effort to develop an Internet-based TV service and associated hardware is taking longer than expected, people familiar with the company's plans told The Wall Street Journal, in part due to delays in reaching content agreements with media companies. Shares closed up 3.7%.

The S&P 500 gained 36 points, or 2.5%, to 1,462. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 93 points, or 3.1%, to 3112.

Apple (AAPL - Get Report) shares popped 3.2% as investors anticipate a big rally this year for the tech giant.

Facebook (FB) shares jumped 5.2%, lifted by positive analyst sentiment.

The vast majority of sectors in the broad market advanced, spearheaded by gains in basic materials, capital goods, technology and financials. Only the health care-sector declined.

Volumes were heavy in the session with 4.16 billion shares swapping on the New York Stock Exchange and 2.1 billion shares on the Nasdaq. Advancers were far outpacing decliners by a ratio of 9.7-to-1 on the Big Board and 6.6-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

David Bianco and Priya Hariani, market strategists at Deutsche Bank, said that although the "fiscal cliff" deal only covers taxes and pushes the spending issues off for a couple of months, they're "pleased" that it keeps the top dividend and capital-gains tax rates low and equal at 23.8%, and are raising their 12-month S&P 500 target to 1,575 from 1,500.

Tax hikes are still set to take place but to a more diluted degree and unemployment benefits will be extended until the end of the year. Planned spending cuts scheduled to kick in this month are to be postponed for two months.

"It sets up another showdown within weeks, which has the potential to be even more disruptive given the U.S. debt ceiling must be raised at the same time if technical default is to be avoided," said Gareth Berry, a currency strategist at UBS. "But, for now, the conditions seem right for a moderate celebratory rally in risk assets, however brief, and we would be reluctant to fight this just yet."

"Wall Street will likely savor the resolution for the time being, but experience renewed investment agita before the quarter is out, offering better entry levels as the year progresses," said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

Analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald noted that the markets seemed to be shrugging off the fact that the U.S. did in fact hit its debt ceiling late on Dec. 31, with no rating agencies having spoken out on U.S. debt following the event.

Markets were closed Tuesday for the New Year's Day holiday.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that the ISM Manufacturing Index rose to 50.7 in December from contraction territory at 49.5 in November. Economists expected an increase to 50.3 in December.

Paul Ashworth, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said that the deal reached to avert most of the scheduled tax increases could provide a small boost to manufacturers in January, but "it is far from a certainty, particularly when the spending cuts that will hit government contractors hard have only been delayed for a couple of months."

The Census Bureau reported that construction spending fell 0.3% in November after rising by a downwardly revised 0.7% in October. Economists had predicted an increase of 0.6% for November.

Capital Economics economists noted that while the construction spending data points were disappointing, they shouldn't be cause for too much worry as construction spending numbers are generally a volatile series month to month.

Gold for February delivery surged $13 to settle at $1,688.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts closed up $1.30 at $93.12 a barrel.

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