Stocks turned positive this afternoon after Speaker Boehner took a positive tone at a news conference and stuck to his plan of extending tax cuts for those making less than $1 million. Furthermore, today the Department of Commerce revised third-quarter GDP growth higher to 3.1% from an earlier estimate of 2.7%. Both of these news items have pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) up 0.12% in late trading. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has risen 0.3%.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) are leading the Dow higher, rising 2.4% and 1.8%, respectively. This has become almost standard procedure on Wall Street when there's hope about a fiscal-cliff deal. Averting the cliff could stave off a recession and help housing continue to improve, so banks have a vested interest in a successful deal.

On the downside, Merck (NYSE:MRK) has fallen 3.4% today after its heart drug Tredaptive failed a study in the U.S. and the company said it would give up on the product. The drug was supposed to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke in vulnerable patients. Instead, the study found a "statistically significant increase in the incidence of some types of non-fatal serious adverse events" -- a result no pharma company wants to hear. For now, it's back to the drawing board for Merck.

Gold continued its decline today on the fiscal-cliff hope. The shiny metal is down 1.2% on the day and is now below $1,650 after being near $1,800 as recently as early October.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

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