Nothing puts investors into the holiday spirit more than a nice rally, and that's exactly what the market gave them today. Despite mixed economic data, a positive reading on leading economic indicators and a rise in consumer confidence to a five-year high helped distract from fears about the looming fiscal cliff, and a cease-fire in the Middle East helped soothe geopolitical turmoil. The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) finished the day up 48 points, with other broad market measures following suit with modest gains.
Leading the way higher was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which reversed a small portion of its huge losses yesterday in gaining about 2% today. Many analysts, including Fool contributor Travis Hoium, are skeptical that today's bounce is anything other than a knee-jerk reaction to yesterday's plunge. Until HP starts to address fundamental problems facing its business more successfully, a lasting recovery will remain elusive.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) rose 1.5% as analyst upgrades have been pouring into the stock. Even with the stock's gains, though, B of A remains a shell of its former self, and it's uncertain how the bank will be able to grow in a regulatory environment that restricts its ability to do business to a much greater extent than before the financial crisis. Moreover, B of A's competitors haven't been standing still, and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) in particular seems to have dealt with its mortgage woes a lot more efficiently than B of A has.
Finally, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) climbed almost 1%. A trial in connection with a lawsuit from Google over wireless technology patents ended today, with Google seeking royalties for Microsoft's use of patented technology belonging to Motorola Mobility. The two sides are far apart on damage estimates, with Microsoft arguing $1 million in annual payments is fair compensation, while Google seeks closer to $4 billion. Patent litigation has become a key part of the tech industry lately, and these high-profile players are only the latest in a long series of fights.
Feast on stocks
I wish you the happiest of holidays. If you get tired of listening to family stories, though, consider boning up on some stock research. Bank of America, for instance, has come a long way, but after its big stock-price rise, is B of A still a smart buy? To learn more about the most-talked-about bank out there, check out our in-depth company report, which details Bank of America's prospects along with three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.