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Today's Primer Post


Even as Democrats and Republicans continue to tell each other that their fiscal cliff solutions aren't balanced, the stock market is rallying on the view that these are signs of progress. The Dow and S&P 500 are coming off their best two-day stretch in a month, while the Nasdaq's two-day advance is its largest since late July. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq's Tuesday closes were their highest in two months.


Investors will get a fresh read on the housing market this morning at 8:30 a.m. New York time, when the government releases November housing starts data. Economists look for a 3.2 percent drop from October levels to an annual rate of 865,000 units. Building permits are seen rising 1.4 percent.


Weekly reports out today include the latest on mortgage applications from the Mortgage Bankers Association at 7 a.m., and the Energy Department's assessment of oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 a.m.


The Treasury will sell $29 billion in 7-year notes, with the results of that sale available shortly after 1 p.m.


FedEx (FDX) is out with quarterly earnings this morning, amid the delivery service's busiest time of year. Food maker General Mills (GIS) will also be out with earnings, as will truck maker Navistar (NAV). After today's closing bell, we'll get the latest quarterly numbers from Accenture (ACN), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Jabil Circuit (JBL), and Paychex (PAYX).


Oracle (ORCL) leads our list of stocks to watch, reporting quarterly profit of $0.64, excluding certain items, three cents above estimates. Revenue was also above consensus, and Oracle forecast that new software sales would rise by 3-13 percent for the current quarter.


Knight Capital (KCG) is being acquired by Getco Holding for about $2 billion, after Getco sweetened its original offer by raising the cash portion of its cash-and-stock deal. It beat out rival bidder Virtu Financial for the market maker.


Health Net (HNT) says its health plan enrollment will decline by 1-2 percent in 2013 because of weakness in its commercial market. The managed-care provider expects 2013 earnings of $2-$2.10 per share, below analyst estimates of $2.12.


Hertz Global (HTZ) also makes our list, as Bank of America (BAC) cuts its stake in the car rental firm to 7.4 percent from 10.97 percent, according to an SEC filing.


Delphi Automotive (DLPH) will join the S&P 500 after the close on December 21, replacing Titanium Metals (TIE). That company is being acquired by Precision Castparts (PCP) in a deal that will be completed shortly.


UBS (UBS) has agreed to pay about $1.5 billion in fines to settle the investigation into manipulation of Libor rates.


Alcoa (AA) has been put on review by Moody's for a possible downgrade because of a sharp drop in aluminum prices this year. A downgrade could push Alcoa's credit ratings into junk territory.


SPX Corp. (SPW) is close to a deal to buy rival machinery maker Gardner Denver (GDI) for $4.2 billion, according to Reuters. The deal could value Gardner Denver at $85 per share, compared to its Tuesday close of $73.68.


Nokia (NOK) is reviving plans to develop a 10-inch Windows RT tablet device, according to DigiTimes. Nokia had originally planned such a device to debut earlier this year, but put the project on the back burner after Microsoft announced its own Surface tablet.


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