Stock Markets

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) led gains in the technology sector and helped pushed the stock markets in the United States higher today.

All of the major sectors in the S&P 500 rallied today. The tech index (SPLRCT) recorded a 1.34% gain, its strongest performance for the month of December. The healthcare index (SPXHC) rose 1.22%.

Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, commented, “Tech stocks and some healthcare stocks can deliver top-line growth in a situation where a lot of other companies have to generate earnings through cost-cutting or share buybacks. What you’re seeing there is a bid for growth.”

U.S. stock markets performance

Today, the Dow Jones Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) climbed 1.10% to 17, 720.98 points and the S&P 500 gained 1.06% to 2,078.36 points.  The NASDAQ rose 1.33% to 5,107.94 and the Russell 2000 went up 1.09% to 1,160.72 points.

Aside from the strong performance of the equities in the tech sector, the U.S. stock markets benefited from the improvement of consumer confidence and the increase in home values in 20 cities across the country.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 96.5 points in December from 92.6 points last month.  On the other hand, the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values rose 5.5% for the year ended October. The increase in home prices at a faster rate was supported by good economic conditions as consumers expect low inflation and further economic growth.

“I think today’s early price action is a follow-through on yesterday’s midday rally off the low. Most traders are focused on just getting to Thursday and turning the page on an underwhelming 2015 and starting work on 2016 next Monday,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in an interview with Bloomberg.

Market movers

The stock price of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) increased 2.78% to $693.97 per share. Analysts at Piper Jaffray initiated coverage on the stock with a Buy rating.  Analysts at Detwiler Fenton & Co. also suggested that a testing with Sprouts Farmers Market will probably become a key growth driver for the e-commerce giant next year. It was recently reported that Amazon is considering launching an air-cargo business.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained 1.80% to $108.74 per share. Brian White, a senior equity research analyst at Drexel Hamilton said Apple is his top mega-cap technology pick for 2016, and set a price target of $200 per share. He believed that the company will continue its policy of generous cash distribution to shareholders. He also noted that Apple’s valuation remains attractive and its key strength.

The stock value of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) increased 1.07% to $56.55 per share. The software giant raised the price of Surface Hub, its all-purpose computer that provides ultimate conferencing solution for businesses. Microsoft gained more than 18% in stock value over the past year.

The shares of Pep Boys-Manny Moe & Jack (NYSE:PBY) surged 8.85% to $18.95 per share. Icahn Enterprises raised its offer to acquire the automotive aftermarket service company for $18.50 per share or $1 billion in cash.

Aclaris Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACRS) plummeted 16.30% to $24.09 per share. The company is the biggest loser among the companies listed on the index today. The company is focused on developing topical drugs to address unmet needs in dermatology.