Ho! Ho! Ho!

All those financial pundits will most likely now start uttering phrases like "year-end rally" and "Santa-Claus gifts" as stock prices make their way to the 1996 finish line. But make no mistake, these year-end gains stem from a fundamental fact: Initial public offerings diminish during the holidays, and cash rolling into the market rises with holiday bonuses and the like. In essence, the supply-demand equation generally is quite favorable as the holidays approach.

And getting a boost from a robust semiconductor industry report sure helps. Though the chip stocks aren't moving sharply higher, the report indicates that business continues to improve. One manufacturers' representative in the Northeast said even commodity-priced DRAM chips are back in heavy demand.

Deep below that smattering of happy news, however, Scroogish moments still occur. For one, it appears that daddies aren't getting a whole lot of power tools this winter.

Black & Decker

(BDK:NYSE) has plunged nearly 20% since it made a grim earnings forecast this morning.

And finally, the web-heads have started rolling into New York for the

Internet World

expo. Ahead of that industry conference, where exhibits starts Wednesday, the Internet-related stocks reflect the character of their medium: anarchy.

Big Dogs, like

Sun Micro

(SUNW:Nasdaq),

Microsoft

(MSFT:Nasdaq) and

Netscape

(NSCP:Nasdaq) are all advancing. But the search engines,

Lycos

(LCOS:Nasdaq),

Yahoo

(YHOO:Nasdaq),

Excite

(XCIT:Nasdaq) and company, are flat. Meanwhile,

America Online

(AOL:NYSE), everyman's on-line stock, is losing ground.

By Dave Kansas