Best December Since 1991?

Bob Pisani is off; this post was written by CNBC producer Robert Hum.

It has been quite a December so far — still the best since 1991. The S&P 500 Index is up 11 of the last 12 days, but may take a little breather today ahead of the holiday weekend. Global equities are fairly flat in their trading today on lighter volume as people get ready for the Christmas holiday, while S&P futures were trading slightly lower this morning.

While it may be quieter on the corporate news front, a deluge of economic data was released Thursday morning by the government. Futures moved little on the numbers as much of the data was mixed — November Durable Goods fell more expected in November, but were stronger-than-expected ex-transportation. Meanwhile, November Personal Income was stronger than expected, but October’s data point was revised slightly lower. The opposite was true for Personal Spending, with the November number missing estimates and the October number revised upwards. Weekly jobless claims remained steady, coming in at 420,000, slightly less than expected, but mostly stable from last week’s upwards revision of 423,000.

And that’s not all…then there's New Home Sales, released at 10am ET.


1) The Treasury Department announced that 6 smaller banks have repaid their TARP funds, amounting to a combined $2.7 billion. The 6 banks include Huntington Bancshares , First Horizon National , Susquehanna Bancshares , Heritage Financial , Wintrust Financial , and The Bank of Kentucky Financial .

2) Shares of Allied Irish Bank plunge 20 percent after the Irish government detailed plans to recapitalize the Irish bank, essentially becoming the country’s fourth nationalized bank. The government will inject 3.7 billion euros into the bank in exchange for shares of the bank. The government’s stake would rise to nearly 93 percent, up from just under 19 percent.

3) Jo-Ann Stores soars 33 percent after announcing it is being acquired by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners for $1.6 billion in cash. Shareholders of the fabric retailer will get $61 per share, a 34 percent premium to yesterday’s closing price. The deal is expected to close in the first half of next year.

4) Australian miner Rio Tinto has offered to buy smaller rival Riversdale Mining for $3.9 billion. While Riversdale’s board now endorses the deal, Rio Tinto must now take on the tough task of convincing major shareholders to vote in favor of the deal. A headwind — although higher than its original offer, Rio Tinto’s current per share offer price is lower than Riversdale’s current price, which may cause shareholders to seek a higher price before favoring the deal.

5) Energy firm Petrohawk Energy announced the sale of some natural gas assets in Arkansas to ExxonMobil’s recently-acquired unit XTO Energy for $575 million.

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