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Weekly Market Wrap: 12/31/2010
Friday, December 31, 1:31 PM ET

The year draws to a close with light trading during the holiday week.

Hi. I’m Sayoko Murase. Welcome to the “Weekly Market Wrap” for Thursday December 31, 2010.

The Nasdaq, S&P 500, and Dow were all relatively flat for the week.

Crude oil futures fell for the week. Oil is trading at $89.96 a barrel on Friday afternoon.

Gold futures rose this week, to around $1417.95 an ounce on Friday afternoon.

Several key pieces of economic data were released during the week.

The National Association of Realtors said the number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose in November. The index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes increased by 3.5 percent. This represents the fourth increase since contract signings hit a low in June. However, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgages ising this week to 4.86 percent, the highest level in seven months, investors are concerned about what effect this may have on the future of the housing market.

However, the US Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its mortgage application index decreased by 2.3% in the early weeks of December. The fall in mortgage applications could be due to an increase in interest rates, which discourages home purchases and refinancing due to the higher cost of borrowing.

Data released by the government on the labor market was better than economists had hoped for, but shows that the labor market remains soft. New claims for unemployment benefits dropped 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000. This is lowest reading since early July 2008. Economists had expected the number to be 415,000.

In corporate news this week, Endo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ENDP) and ProStrakan received approval for Fortesta testosterone gel, meant to treat men with low testosterone.

Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) and the Australia's Austal were awarded U.S. Navy contracts valued at least $3.5 billion each to design and build up to 20 combat ships through 2015.

Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL) announced that the company tapped into a natural gas deposit off the coast of Israel. The deposit is said to contain an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As for the impact from the finding, Noble's president and chief operating officer, David Stover said in a statement that "this discovery has the potential to position Israel as a natural gas exporting nation."

Rare Earth stocks, such as Molycorp (MCP), Rare Element Resources (REE), and Neo Material (NEMFF), soared this week after news that China cut export quotas on rare earth materials, reducing global supply and forcing users to find alternate suppliers. The minerals are key components of high technology, clean energy and other products that rely on their properties for magnetism and strength.

This is the “Weekly Market Wrap” for Friday December 31. Please join us on Monday for the “Week Ahead Market Report.”

Have a Happy, prosperous New Year, and be sure to choose a designated driver!

For, I’m Sayoko Murase.

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