Last Update on December 19, 2013 08:30 GMT
NEW YORK (AP) -- Investors appear pleased with the Federal Reserve's decision to trim its stimulus efforts next month because it removes a huge amount of uncertainty for them.
Stocks surged yesterday, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average nearly 300 points to another record, after the Fed decided the economy was strong enough for it to begin a modest reduction of its bond purchases.
The central bank also tempered the impact of its pullback by signaling that it plans to keep short-term interest rates at record lows for longer than previously thought.
The Dow jumped 293 points, or nearly 2 percent, to 16,167 on Wednesday -- another all-time high for the blue-chip index.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed nearly 30 points, or 2 percent, to 1,810 and the Nasdaq composite rose 46, or 1 percent, to 4,070.. All 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended the day higher, with health care and banking up the most.
BEIJING (AP) -- Asian markets are mixed in Thursday traders, as investors interpret the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to trim its stimulus as a vote of confidence the American economy is strengthening.
Oil edged down to just under $98 per barrel.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei gained 1.6 percent to 15,930.65 points while Sydney's S&P ASX 200 added 1.7 percent. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Seoul, Singapore and New Zealand also rose.
On the other side, China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 percent after a rise in money market interest rates pushed up the cost of stock trading. India's Sensex shed 0.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was flat.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Now that the Federal Reserve has determined the U.S. economy has made sufficient strides in its recovery to cut back the stimulus next month, investors will be focusing on the government's weekly jobless claims report due out today.
Also, the National Association of Realtors will release the existing home sales numbers for November and Freddie Mac will report the weekly mortgage rates. The Conference Board will release November's leading economic indicators as well.
There are earning reports from two U.S. companies today. Darden Restaurants will report quarterly financial results before the market opens. Nike will report after the market closes.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress has sent President Barack Obama bipartisan legislation scaling back across-the-board spending cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system.
The final vote on the measure Wednesday was 64-36 in the Senate. The House approved the bill last week.
The legislation is designed to prevent the kind of budget brinkmanship that has prevailed over the past three years of divided government and that led to this October's partial government shutdown.
Obama's signature is assured. In a statement the president calls the bill "a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy."
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Secret Service says it's investigating a credit- and debit-card data theft at Target stores.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary confirms the agency is investigating, but declined to provide further details.
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. did not respond to requests for comment. A MasterCard representative referred questions to Target.
Target has 1,797 stores in the U.S. and 124 in Canada.
EUROPE FINANCIAL CRISIS
BRUSSELS (AP) -- European finance ministers have reached a political agreement on how to set up a joint institution tasked to shut down or prop up failing banks, European Union banking Commissioner Michel Barnier reported on his Twitter account.
The Wednesday agreement on the so-called single resolution mechanism and the fund that will serve as its financial backstop marks a milestone toward stabilizing the bloc's financial system.
The European rescue agency will be financed by a levy on banks poised to garner 55 billion euros ($76 billion) over 10 years. Until the full amount will be available, bank rescues will be paid for through a complex combination of funds from national backstops and the European fund.
The agreement marks the second crucial step in the 17-nation eurozone's so-called banking union after an agreement to centralize oversight over the bloc's biggest banks earlier this year.
UN-PROTECTING INTERNET PRIVACY
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at protecting the right to privacy against unlawful surveillance in the digital age.
Germany and Brazil introduced the resolution following a series of reports of U.S. eavesdropping abroad -- including on Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- that surprised and angered friends and allies.
The resolution, adopted by consensus Wednesday, "affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy."
It expresses deep concern at "the negative impact" that unlawful surveillance may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights, "in particular when carried out on a mass scale."
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry political weight.
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Nicaragua's Supreme Court has rejected more than 30 appeals that sought to stop plans for building a canal across the Central American nation.
The top court dominated by President Daniel Ortega's allies dismissed on Wednesday challenges to any start to the proposed $40 billion waterway.
Court spokesman Roberto Larios says the judges rejecting hearing the cases, finding that the project doesn't violate the constitution.
Environmentalists and academics had expected the outcome, which removes the last legal barrier for the canal to move forward.
Nicaraguan legislators in June approved granting Beijing-based telecommunications CEO Wang Jing a concession to build and operate a canal more than three times the length of Panama's.
Proponents say the project could lift Nicaragua from poverty. Opponents say it's not feasible economically and could damage the environment.