The string of mediocre employment numbers continued today when the Department of Labor reported a 155,000-worker increase in nonfarm payrolls in December. This was a fairly average jobs report in the context of the last two years, and it will barely make a dent in our 7.8% unemployment rate.
There is a silver lining to the jobs numbers, though. As we headed toward the fiscal cliff, businesses were supposed to be cutting back on hiring and big purchases because of the uncertainty regarding the federal budget and taxes. Either businesses were unaffected and have come to expect dysfunction from Washington or the economy is stronger than we think, and even cutbacks at some companies didn't deter hiring. Either way, I think it's a good sign for 2013.
Markets reacted with a big yawn at the unemployment numbers, which basically met expectations, and traders have apparently forgotten about the doom-and-gloom predictions of late 2012. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) has risen 0.27%, while the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is up 0.44% on the day.
Disney (NYSE: DIS ) is leading the Dow today, up 2%. There isn't any earth-shattering news about Disney, but Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) announced that it struck a deal to stream A&E's shows on its Prime service. Disney is one of the major content owners, and with streaming companies clamoring for content, the company is in a good position to capitalize on the streaming trend.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) has fallen 1.4% to lead the Dow's losers. Yesterday, the FTC said it wouldn't bring antitrust charges against competitor Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) for favoring its own results in search. Microsoft blasted the ruling, with vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner saying, "The FTC's overall resolution of this matter is weak and -- frankly -- unusual." This isn't a death blow of any sort for Microsoft, but it isn't the win it was hoping for.
Gold has taken it on the chin today as investors sold the news that the Fed's bond-buying program may end this year. The widely owned SPDR Gold Shares was down 1.2% on the day, but the commodity itself fell 2% to $1,641 per ounce. Investors have been buying gold as a hedge against the Fed's money-printing program, but if that comes to an end this year, the big driver that pushed gold higher will stall.
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