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An unexpected improvement in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) along with positive initial claims data drove benchmarks into positive territory. However, investors remained cautious over a possible attack on Syria. On the international front, unemployment rate in Germany remained at a low level while inflation for the month of August declined. Of the top ten S&P 500 industry groups, the technology sector gained the most. Energy stocks suffered maximum losses.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.1% to close the day at 14,840.  87. The S&P 500 added 0.2% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,638.17. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.8% to end at 3,620.30. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) gained 1.9% to settle at 16.81. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 4.74 billion shares, well below 2013’s average of 6.31 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 61% shares that advanced, 36% declined.

Benchmarks bolstered gains on the back of an improving economy. However, towards the end of yesterday’s trading session, fears of a possible military strike on Syria gripped investors. Real GDP for the second quarter came in at 2.5%, ahead of previous quarter’s figure of 1.1%. This was also well ahead of the consensus estimate of 2.1%. Significant improvement was witnessed in several pockets of the economy. Real personal consumption expenditure, real nonresidential fixed investment and real exports of goods and services witnessed increases of 1.8%, 4.4% and 8.6%, respectively.
 
A bunch of economic reports were also released yesterday which boosted investor sentiment. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has decreased week over week. Initial claims numbers came in at 331,000, lower than previous week’s figure of 337,000. The 4-week moving average basis came in at 331,250, up 750 from previous week’s number of 330,500.
 
The Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index dropped for the third week in a row. The consumer confidence index came in at -31.7 compared to -28.8, recorded in the previous week. The index has dropped nearly 8.2 points after peaking to a five-year high. Increase in mortgage rates and tensions brewing up in Syria are the factors responsible for low consumer confidence. Fears of an imminent attack have raised concerns over a possible increase in fuel costs.  The barometer which measures the state of the economy has dropped 2.5% points to -55.1. The gauge which indicates the buying climate decreased to -38.7 from previously week’s figure of -36.7.
 
On the international front, Germany continues to show signs of an economic recovery. Germany’s inflation for the month of August came in at 1.5%. This is well below previous month’s figure of 1.9%. Germany’s inflation is marginally below the Euro Zone’s figure of 1.6%. Employment numbers of the country also improved month over month, last witnessed during May. According to the German Labor Office data, the number of jobless individuals for the month of August came in at 2.943 million, an increase of 7,000. For the fourth consecutive month, less than 3 million people remained unemployed in Germany
 
Technology stocks gained the most during yesterday’s trading session. The Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 0.6%. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) gained 0.2%, 1.6%, 0.8%, 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively.
 
Energy stocks suffered the most. Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) lost nearly 1%. Stocks such as Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Hess Corp. (NYSE:HES), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Marathon Petroleum Corp (NYSE:MPC) lost 1.8%, 1.2%, 0.9%, 0.9% and 0.6%, respectively.

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