Holiday traders stuck at their desks ahead of tomorrow’s July 4th holiday at least had reason to be happy as they closed a shortened trading day on a high note after reports showing strong auto sales and an increase in May U.S. factory orders were released.
Markets closed for the day at 1:00 p.m (EST), with all three indexes ahead. The Dow ended up 0.56% to 12,943, the S&P rose 0.62% to 1,374, and the Nasdaq continued a recent strong run-up 0.84% to finish at 2,976.
Automakers reported healthy June sales figures, with Ford (NYSE:F) posting a 7% gain from last June, with 208,000 vehicles sold. Ford had earlier warned that second-quarter losses from overseas operations — especially in Europe – would be bigger than expected. Chrysler sold 145,0000 vehicles in June, a 20% gain from a year ago, while General Motors (NYSE:GM) sold nearly 249,000 vehicles, a 16% increase. Ford shares rose 2.25% on the news, while GM gapped up just over 5% on the day.
Investors were also cheered as factory orders for May rose by 0.7%, after increasing 0.4% in April. The increase beat expectations of a 0.2% rise, according to Reuters.
Company news dictated much of the day’s other action, as Barclays (NYSE:BCS) fell just over 2% after Chief Executive Bob Diamond resigned Tuesday in the wake of a scandal involving rigging interest rates. Barclay’s will pay a $450 million fine, and executives are scheduled to meet with British regulators next week.
The fallout didn’t claim any U.S. banking stocks for now, as shares of Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) were all ahead a fraction, while JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) dropped just as fractionally.
Software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) rose despite announcing it will take a total writedown on aQuantive, a digital advertising company purchased in 2007 for $6.3 billion. Indeed, technology stocks were up across the board, with Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) rebounding from Monday’s loss to post a 2.4% gain as investors digested the news of it acquisition of Quest (NASDAQ:QSFT).
A personal note:
I attend numerous professional, collegiate and high school sporting events during the course of the year, and if there’s one moment in each that both sobers and elates me, it’s the playing or singing of The Star Spangled Banner.
In a country as richly and deeply diverse as the U.S., with our occasional squabbles and food fights, the sight of every man, women and child standing as one, putting aside differences and honoring the country as a single, united entity is at times breathtaking.
That’s what July 4th is all about: Happy Birthday, America.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing he is long MSFT.