Politicians Delay, Oracle Prepays

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) are up 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively, as of 10 a.m. EST.

Fiscal-cliff watch
After Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented Republicans with a deficit-reduction plan on behalf of the President last Thursday, the Republicans have produced a "counter-offer." The White House has rejected it out of hand – returning the Republicans' courtesy from last week. To give an idea of the chasm that separates the two camps, Republicans are looking for $800 billion in additional taxes over 10 years through reduced deductions (no tax rate increases) -- just half of the $1.6 trillion the White House wants to generate in new revenue. This is not a good start to negotiations, but it was predictable, and it is a start.

The micro view
In this column last week, I referred to the trend of companies moving their dividend payouts forward or paying special dividends in anticipation of a potential dividend tax increase next year. Enterprise software giant Oracle (NYSE: ORCL  ) is now onboard: It will pay out $867 million as an $0.18 per-share dividend on Dec. 21, rather than the next three quarterly payments it would ordinarily have made. Oracle shareholders will appreciate the move. And if you already appreciate the wealth-building power of dividends, you're ready to "Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." Click here for your free report.

The macro view
Housing lives! Strong third-quarter earnings from Home Depot and Lowe's last month were an indication that the housing market is reviving. Today, homebuilder Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL  ) reported earnings per share for its fiscal fourth quarter of $2.35, soundly beating the consensus estimate of $0.25, even after netting out a $350.7 million tax benefit the company received. Revenue rose 48% year on year to $632.8 million, well ahead of the $565 million estimate. The shares are up 1.5% as of 10:15 a.m. EST.

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