Dow Closes at 13-Month High; VIX Nears 20

Stocks posted modest gains Wednesday, but it was enough to propel the Dow and S&P to new 13-month closing highs, as economic data buoyed recovery hopes — and investors' appetite for risk.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 30.69, or 0.3 percent, to close at 10,464.40. The S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent to 1,110.63 and the Nasdaq advanced 0.3 percent to 2,176.05.

All U.S. financial markets are closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely seen as the best gauge of fear in the market, dropped to a 15-month low of 20.05, before settling at 20.51. The VIX hasn't traded below 20 since August of last year.

A few encouraging data points this morning: Personal spending rose more than expected last month as income increased, and consumer sentiment improved slightly in November. Jobless claims fell to 466,000last week and new-home sales rose 6.2 percentto their highest level in over a year in October.

But durable-goods orders unexpectedly dropped.

Investors' increased appetite for risk sent the dollar to a 15-month lowagainst a basket of currencies.

Gold hit a new record highabove $1,190 an ounce after a newspaper report that India is open to buying more gold from the IMF, settling at $1,186.90. For those of you keeping score at home: Gold has averaged a gain of about $10 per session for the past nine sessions and today marks the 24th record high this year. This rally of the past 18 sessions is the longest in Comex history.

Oil rose more than 2 percent, settling at $77.96 a barrel.

Boeing, Caterpillar and Pfizer were the biggest gainers on the Dow. Kraft and Bank of America were at the bottom of the pack.

Bank of America shed 0.9 percent amid talk that the bank is having a hard time finding a successor CEO Ken Lewis and that he may have to stay beyond his planned Dec. 31 departure.

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 and raised 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.

Of course, trading volume was light as many traders left early for the Thanksgiving holiday: Just 795 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Advancers outpaced decliners, roughly 2 to 1.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: Thanksgiving—all US financial markets closed
FRIDAY: Black Friday—US markets open but NYSE closes at 1pm ET.

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