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A volatile trading session ended with markets eking out small gains propelled by a jump in Apple’s shares and positive initial claims data. Meanwhile, the impending government jobs report and a focus on the Fiscal Cliff issue also played their part in the markets’ movement yesterday. Apple rebounded from the previous day’s losses and helped the technology sector to emerge as a major gainer for the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.3% to finish at 13,074.04. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) also added 0.3% to close yesterday’s trading session at 1,413.94. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index outperformed fellow benchmarks to end 0.5% higher at 2,989.27. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) added a paltry 0.7% to settle at 16.58. Total volumes on the New York Stock Exchange stood at 3.23 billion shares. Advancers edged past decliners on the NYSE; as for 51% stocks that rose, 45% stocks closed lower.

The patient wait for a timely solution to the fiscal cliff dilemma has been deciding benchmarks’ direction for long. By now all and sundry must be bored to hear repeatedly that economists’ have predicted another recession is looming if the issue is not resolved by Congress. The Fiscal Cliff of $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will take effect in few more weeks. As for the latest development on this front, the negotiating parties, namely President Obama and speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, were reported to have made some progress in solving the dilemma. The President and John Boehner had a telephonic conversation, but none of them were ready to divulge details. White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “Lines of communication remain open”. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel echoed these sentiments.

Apart from the cautious approach toward the Fiscal Cliff, markets’ gains were somewhat restricted by investors’ wait-and-watch attitude ahead of the government jobs report. November employment data is scheduled for release on Friday and till then investors are wary of betting big bucks. However, the initial claims report on Thursday was positive and helped markets add to their gains. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims dropped 25,000 from the prior week to 370,000 in the week ending December 1. The drop was also wider than expectations of the figure coming in at 380, 000.

Positive initial claims data came a day after Automatic Data Processing’s (NASDAQ:ADP) National Employment report revealed that the U.S. private sector added 118,000 jobs in November compared to 158,000 in October. Job additions were also lesser than what the Street had predicted. Positive initial claims data and not-so-favorable ADP National Employment report mean investors will anxiously await nonfarm payroll data.

Also helping markets move up was strong performance from the technology sector. The Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) was up 0.6%, largely a result of gains for the likes of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ:BRCM) and Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:AKAM). Apple gained 1.6% to rebound from the previous day’s losses, which was the largest drop in more than four years. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said some portion of Mac’s production will be shifted to the U.S. Apple had slumped 6.4% after COR Clearing increased the iPhone maker’s margin requirement to 60% from 30%.

Separately, Broadcom gained 3.2% after projecting fourth quarter revenue to be at the higher end of its target range. Akamai jumped 10.0% after announcing its intention to sell services in partnership with AT&T, Inc. (NYSE:T).

The utilities sector was a major loser among the S&P industry groups and the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) lost 0.1%. Among the top ten holding companies of XLU, Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE:DUK), Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D), FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE) and Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC) lost 0.5%, 0.4%, 1.1% and 0.3%, respectively.

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