Markets post big gains Monday to wrap up strong 2012

NEW YORK — The stock market finished a strong 2012 with big gains Monday, even as the specter of the "fiscal cliff" stood unresolved.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 166.03 points to finish the year at 13,104.14, a gain of 7.3 percent for the year, its fourth straight year in the black.

The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 23.76 to 1,426.19, up 13.4 percent for the year after finishing flat in 2011. The Nasdaq composite climbed 59.20 to 3,019.51. For the year, the Nasdaq rose 15.9 percent.

The close Monday was a high note in what had been a choppy day for the market, as the prospect for higher taxes and a drastic cut to federal programs loomed.

Investors' opinions about the fiscal cliff's potential impact varied, making its long-term effect on the market hard to guess.

Some investors are unruffled, saying the impact would be felt only gradually. For example, workers might get more taxes withheld from their first couple of paychecks in the new year, but it's not as if they'd have to pay all their higher taxes up front. And Congress could always retroactively repeal those higher taxes.

Others are more concerned. The higher taxes and lower government spending could take more than $600 billion out of the U.S. economy and send it back into recession. Investors would have no good read on the country's long-term policy for taxes and spending.

Markets post big gains Monday to wrap up strong 2012 12/31/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 6:55pm]

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