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We know that worries regarding higher taxation across the board, and spending cuts, are going to remain a concern for the foreseeable future. What we didn't expect was a ray of sunshine from the Federal Reserve, which noted that the net wealth of U.S. households rose in the third-quarter to its highest level since late 2007.
Net financial wealth rose $1.72 trillion during the quarter, led by $300 billion in housing appreciation gains, and $520 billion in stock holding gains, to push total U.S. household wealth to $64.77 trillion. In theory, if U.S. households have more wealth, they're more apt to spend. Since consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. GDP, this is a very optimistic sign for a rebound in U.S. growth.
On the heels of that news, the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) rose 4.66 points (0.33%), to end at 1,413.94.
Leading to the upside was online content enabler Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM ) , which rose 10%, after announcing a strategic partnership with AT&T (NYSE: T ) to distribute content delivery network solutions in North America and, eventually, globally. After losing a CDN contract with Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) earlier this year, this is a sorely needed long-term win for Akamai, although it may take some time before it has a big impact on its bottom-line profits.
Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX ) shares also took a shot of espresso, and roared higher by 5.7%, after receiving an upgrade from research firm Robert W. Baird to "outperform" from "neutral." Baird also boosted its price target on the coffee giant to $62 from $55. This upgrade comes just a day after Starbucks announced that it plans to open up an additional 1,500 cafes in the United States. In my opinion, this is a well-deserved upgrade.
However, for every ray of sunshine, there's always a cloud lurking in the background. Copper miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX ) continued its internal cave-in, shedding another 4.2%, following four separate downgrades by Wall Street analysts. The primary concern continues to be Freeport's choice to re-enter the energy business now with a combined $9 billion in purchases of McMorRan Exploration (UNKNOWN: MMR.DL ) and Plains Exploration & Production (UNKNOWN: PXP.DL2 ) , and how much of a distraction it'll be from its copper mining business. It could be a few quarters before this is all settled out, but Freeport is beginning to look attractive from a value perspective.
Also getting the cold shoulder from investors was defense contractor SAIC (UNKNOWN: SAI.DL ) , which dipped 3.5% after its third-quarter earnings results failed to impress Wall Street. SAI reversed a year-ago loss by reporting a $0.33 per share profit on a 3% rise in revenue, to $2.87 billion. Unfortunately, analysts had been expecting a more robust $0.35 per share profit from SAI. In response to an expected cut in defense spending, SAI announced layoffs totaling about 700 employees, in an effort to rein in costs.
A waterfall of profits or pain?
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