Market Recap: Stocks Slump in Inevitable Pullback Following Biggest Rally of the Year

Markets closed mixed on Wall Street today: Dow -0.21%, S&P -0.19%, Nasdaq +0.22%, Oil -0.37%, Gold -0.06%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell to $99.99 a barrel. Precious metals were mostly flat, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling slightly to $1,749.30 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) didn’t move at $32.81.

Hot Feature: Congress Split on Extending Unemployment Benefits and Payroll Tax Cuts

Today’s markets were mixed because:

1) Mario Draghi. Investors were also focused today on comments from European Central Bank president Mario Draghi who, speaking before the European Parliament, said Europe needs a “new fiscal compact” to ensure that budget rules are respected and enforced. Some investors interpreted Draghi’s suggestion that “other elements might follow” the compact’s adoption as a hint that the ECB would then be willing to step up its rescue efforts and intervene in euro-zone sovereign debt markets on a large and unlimited basis. Though investors have been clamoring for the central bank to take action, it has been reluctant to prop up government finances, not only because it would risk inflation, but because it would let profligate nations off the hook for unsound fiscal practices.

2) Unemployment. The number of people filing for initial unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose by 6,000 to 402,000 last week, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington, well above the 390,000 jobless claims economists had been forecasting for the week ending November 26. Markets are now awaiting Friday’s monthly jobs report

3) Autos. Lower gas prices and wider availability of Japanese models made November the American auto industry’s best sales month in more than two years. Today Chrysler, Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), Nissan, and Toyota (NYSE:TM) all reported year-over-year improvements in U.S. sales, with only Honda (NYSE:HMC) reporting a decline. Honda and Toyota were the two companies that experienced the biggest disruptions related to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March. However, unlike Honda, Toyota has been able to claw its way back, with November sales up 6.7 percent compared to last year. November’s results represent Toyota’s first year-over-year sales increase in the U.S. in seven months.

BONUS: EU Bank Writedowns May Exclude Debt Issued Before 2013