Equity markets started off the final trading week of the year on a mixed note, with many taking profits and locking in gains, while some cheered on the positive economic data at home. The holiday weekend wasn’t enough to inspire a full-scale Santa Claus rally like many had hoped ; the Nasdaq led with way higher, clinching a 0.25% gain, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average Lagged Behind, turning in a loss of 0.02% on the day. Gold futures inched lower as stock markets drifted sideways, with prices for the precious yellow metal settling near $1,595 an ounce as the trading session drew to a close [see ETF Insider: Slick Picks For Year End Bulls].
Prospects for the U.S. economic recovery continue to improve as better-than-expected consumer confidence bolstered optimism; the figure came in at 64.5 versus the expected 60, blowing past last month’s reading of 55.2. Crude oil climbed higher as geopolitical tensions in Iran sparked global supply concerns, while positive consumer data on the home front helped boost demand expectations. On Wall Street, the utilities sector inched higher during an otherwise fairly quiet trading day, while financial stocks drifted lower amidst the overhanging uncertainty stemming from the Euro zone [see How To Invest Like UBS In 2012].
The PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund (DBA) was one the biggest winners on the day, clinching a solid 1.05% gain. This agricultural commodities ETF made a move higher thanks to an improving outlook for the U.S. economy, boosting demand prospects for raw goods across the board; soybean meal futures prices jumped over 4% on the day, while corn and wheat prices also soared higher. Despite today’s gains, agricultural commodities remain severely beat down; DBA is down close to 11% year-to-date.
The Van Eck Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) was one of the biggest losers on the day, shedding 1.75% as broad equity indexes came up flat. The yellow metal’s spot price inched lower as improving confidence in the U.S. economic recovery paved the way for an increasing risk appetite amongst investors. Gold prices have been hit pretty hard over the last two months and GDX remains in the lower half of its trading range, down close to 16% year-to-date.