Dow and S&P 500 Climb Last Week to Record Highs

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Loosen up those belts and toss a little extra whipped cream on that post-turkey, Nutella-covered pumpkin pie -- investors are giving thanks for stock gains on Wall Street. Check out what helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  finish above 16,000 points Thursday and the S&P 500 beyond 1,800 points on Friday for their first times.

1. Third-quarter earnings winners ...
Home Depot'
s sales rose 7% from last year as the improving housing market encourages DIY-ers to add a lot of awesome extra features to their houses. J.C. Penney's $2.78 billion in revenues last quarter were below analysts' expectations, but investors were impressed that the new CEO finally helped sales grow nearly 1% driven by online purchases. And Green Mountain Coffee Roasters  (NASDAQ: GMCR  ) earnings rose 38% from this time last year -- plus the company announced it's returning cash to shareholders by serving up its first ever Splenda-sweetened dividend.

2. ... Third-quarter earnings losers
Struggling big-box store Best Buy saw earnings finally turn positive last quarter, but the stock price fell on concerns about its Xmas sales. Target (NYSE: TGT  )  profits fell 25% -- and the company's management took a cue from South Park and "blamed Canada," as sales in its 124 Canuck-based stores continue to slip on the ice. And Pandora earnings topped analyst expectations, but investors sent the stock down on worries about upcoming competition in the music-streaming space (like an inevitable, cooler version from Apple).
 
3. JPMorgan's fine is official
You've been hearing about it for a while, but last week it became official -- JPMorgan Chase is dishing out a cool $13 billion to the U.S. Justice Department for its work selling risky mortgage-backed securities to unknowing investors during the housing market bubble. That's one lump-sum fine for wrongdoings by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both now owned by JPM. Shares barely moved, since investors know America's biggest bank has a sizable reserve account built up to pay for these billion-dollar problems.

4. U.S. government says goodbye to General Motors
Every mother knows when it's time for her chicks to leave the nest, and the U.S. government is no exception. The Treasury Department announced that it's selling its remaining shares of General Motors after investing $50 billion into the struggling company during the auto crisis of '09 -- the remaining 31 million shares will be sold by the end of the year. GM's been revving along to billions in profits since its bailout and is now ready to hit the open road driving solo.

5. Janet Yellen and the Fed make headlines
Two big things happened this week involving the Federal Reserve. First, the "minutes" from the Fed's policy-setting meeting last month were released to the public, and details that the central bank might end stimulus a tad early kind of freaked out investors. But then Wall Street's frown got turned upside down -- the Senate Banking Committee voted to approve the legendary Janet Yellen, President Obama's nominee to replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2014. Yellen is a fan of stimulus, so investors were pumped to hear that the Senate will finally vote to confirm her a week after Thanksgiving.

What MarketSnacks is checking out this week:
  • Monday: Pending home sales
  • Tuesday: Consumer confidence
  • Wednesday: Durable-goods orders
  • Thursday: MARKETS CLOSED FOR THANKSGIVING
  • Friday: Stock market closes early

Originally published on MarketSnacks.com.

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