Freeport Returns to Its Roots

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up 0.28% as of 10:08 a.m. EST, while the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is down a fraction of a point.

Fiscal cliff watch
The Financial Times is reporting that the Republican counteroffer for addressing the fiscal cliff did not include any increase in the tax rate on dividends and capital gains, which are currently 15%. The House Republican leadership is opposed to any such increase on the grounds that it would have a dissuasive effect on economic activity. If Congress doesn't come to an agreement, the rate on capital gains is set to increase from 15% to 23.8%, and the rate on dividends would rise to 43.4%.

Do you find the debate concerning the fiscal cliff confusing? Check out our "cliffhanger" series, starting with 4 Questions to Understand the Fiscal Cliff.

The micro view
Copper giant Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX  ) is planning two acquisitions in the oil and gas sector in a move that would return the company to its roots in the energy sector. The targets are thought to be companies with which Freeport has existing ties: McMoRan Exploration (NYSE: MMR  ) and Plains Exploration and Production (UNKNOWN: PXP.DL2  ) . The former company was spun out of Freeport-McMoran in 1994. Although some shareholders might prefer a distribution of Freeport's excess cash rather than see it put toward acquisitions in a different sector, one constituency will cheer this new strategic course: M&A bankers, for whom there have not been many deals to go around this year.

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