Stocks Claw Higher; VIX Hits 15-Month Low

Stocks clawed higher Wednesday after a report showed new-home sales rose more than expected.

Stocks had struggled in the morning as earlier data were mixed: Jobless claims and personal spending topped expectations but durable goods unexpectedly dropped.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely seen as the best gauge of fear in the market, dropped to a 15-month low of 20.05. The VIX hasn't traded below 20 since August of last year.

Gold hit a new record highabove $1,180 an ounce after a newspaper report that India is open to buying more gold from the International Monetary Fund. Oil dropped below $76 a barrel. And the dollar touched a 15-month lowagainst a basket of currencies.

Jobless claims fell to 466,000last week compared with estimates of 500,000, the lowest level since September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed sending shockwaves through the markets.

October durable goods orders fell unexpectedly, but personal spending rose more than expected as income increased, data showed.

Consumers' mood improved slightly in November: The Reuters/Univ of Michigan gauge of consumer sentiment rose to 67.4in the final reading from 66 at mid-month. The final number was slightly better than the 67 economists had expected but not as robust as the 70.6 logged in October.

New-home sales rose 6.2 percentto 430,000 in October, well above the 395,000 expected. And mortgage rates slipped again last week: The fixed 30-year averaged 4.78 percent, cown from 4.83 percent in the prior week.

European stocks were trading higher, boosted by the U.S. Federal Reserve's revision of the growth outlook for next year, while Asian markets staged a late rally.

Banks started the day higher but retreated by midday: Bank of America , Citigroup and JPMorganall fell about 1 percent.

Microsoft shares slipped following news that CFO Chris Liddell will leave the company at the end of the year. He will be succeeded by Peter Klein, currently the CFO of the company's business division.

AIG's board authorized a $7 million compensation packagefor CEO Robert Benmosche.

The head of the FDIC warned of risksin a proposal that would break up the biggest financial institutions in the U.S.

On the earnings front, Deere reported a quarterly net loss because of weak equipment sales and some one-off charges.

Tiffany beat expectations andraised its forecast for full-year earnings.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has sent confidentiality agreements to about 20 interested parties including Time Warner and News Corp , Reuters reported.

The last of three major Treasury auctions this week takes place at 1 pm New York time when total $32 billion of 7-year notes will be auctioned.

Still to Come:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly crude inventories; 7-year note auction
THURSDAY: Thanksgiving—all US financial markets closed
FRIDAY: Black Friday—US markets open but NYSE closes at 1pm ET.

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