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We can say this much: 2012 certainly knows how to make a grand entrance. The first trading day of the new year saw all three major indices up about 1.5%, while gold broke $1,600 an ounce and oil rose by 4%, placing it above the triple-digit mark to just under $103 a barrel.
The cause for today's celebration: excellent numbers from the ISM manufacturing survey, which increased to 53.7 for December, up from last month's 52.7 and 50.8 from October. A number above 50 indicates economic expansion. The phrase "green shoots" may come back into play as several promising macro reports over the past few months have indicated that although gains are fragile, the economic situation is tangibly improving. And it's not just in America; positive economic indicators also came out of Germany and China.
In response, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) was todays best performer of the three major indices, rising 1.47% for a 180-point gain. The S&P 500 closed up 1.55%, but today's biggest rise goes to the Nasdaq, which gained 1.67%.
Inside the Dow, the single biggest gainer was Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , up 6.7%. The gain, while impressive, was not surprising, since the world's third-largest aluminum producer is an integral player in manufacturing. The two Wall Street banks, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , added 5.2% and 4.3%, respectively, putting them firmly in second and third place. A stronger global economy not only means more stability for large banks but also a return to increasing commodity prices, explaining Chevron's (NYSE: CVX ) 3.7% gain despite an Ecuadorian court's upholding of an $18 billion verdict against the company.
All told, it appears the market is doing its best to start 2012 in style. If that's the case, let's hope it's one trend we see continue into the new year.
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