Market Recap: Stocks Close Mixed as Jobs Recovery Counters Debt Crisis

Markets closed mixed on Wall Street today: Dow -0.02%, S&P +0.29%, Nasdaq +0.81%, Oil -1.45%, Gold +0.68%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell to $101.72 a barrel. Precious metals were up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising to $1,623.70 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) climbed 0.62% to settle at $29.28.

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Today’s markets were mixed because:

1) Euro. Stocks fell sharply in early trading today after the euro declined to a 15-month low versus the dollar. The sell-off came as investors were rattled by more turmoil in European sovereign debt markets. French borrowing costs climbed at a bond auction today where the government fell slightly short of its fundraising goal. Spanish bond yields popped after a government official said Wednesday that Spanish banks would need to set aside another 50 billion euros as part of a restructuring of the nation’s financial sector, and Italian yields again jumped back above the key 7 percent level. And though the European Financial Stability Facility received decent demand for its new three-year bonds, it paled in comparison to demand for its 10-year bond offering last January.

2) Jobs. The Labor Department today reported that initial claims for unemployment benefits declined last week to 372,000, while the four-week moving average fell 3,250 last week to 376,500 — the lowest since June 2008. On Friday, the Labor Department will issue its monthly employment report, but today ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) released its monthly report on private-sector employment, which estimates that the U.S. economy added some 325,000 private-sector jobs in December.

3) Auto. Strong auto sales helped support stocks throughout the day, with Detroit’s big three automakers — General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), and Chrysler — on track to be profitable in 2011 when they report earnings in the coming weeks, something they haven’t achieved since 2004. And industry analysts forecasting even better industrywide sales in 2012.

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