December began with a bit of Christmas cheer for the financial world – better-than-expected Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and rising employment figures stoked some optimism about the pace of the economic recovery.
The November 2010 ADP employment report showed that private-sector employment rose 93,000 from October to November, the tenth consecutive month of gains and well above the average figure of 47,000 new jobs. The service sector generated the majority of the new jobs – 79,000 in total – followed by the production of goods. As is typical, small businesses did most of the hiring – 54,000 new jobs were added by firms with less than 50 workers, while those with over 500 workers added just 2,000 positions.
However, ADP cautioned that despite the job growth, figures are still too anemic to seriously dent the unemployment rate – and millions will soon reach the end of their jobless benefits.
In addition, a report from comScore showed that sales on so-called "Cyber Monday" – the online-shopping analogue to Black Friday – passed $1 billion for the first time. Technology sales led the gains, with a focus on luxury consumer goods such as flat-screen high-definition televisions, Apple iPads and various smartphones and video game consoles. Overall, holiday spending is up 13 percent this year, while Cyber Monday set an all-time online shopping record and was up 16 percent from a year ago.
Futures brokers and traders reacted accordingly, and stock index futures rallied on the first day of December. Dow Jones Industrial Average index futures rose 204 points to 11,200, while S&P 500 index futures gained 21.1 points to 1,200.7 at 10:48 a.m. EST. Nasdaq 100 index futures climbed 47 points to 2,164.
Crude oil futures also gained – on ICE Futures, Brent crude rose 1.98 percent to $87.26 per barrel, while light, sweet West Texas intermediate crude oil futures gained 1.74 percent to $85.57 per barrel.
Copper futures – another commodity which sees price increases in good economic times – gained 2 percent as well, climbing to 390.25 cents per pound. Even natural gas, which has been depressed by a record supply glut lately, rose 0.19 percent to $4.188 per million British thermal units.
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