One the eve of the 2012 presidential election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 19 points, while broader markets saw somewhat larger gains in percentage terms.
With less than twenty-four hours before voters headed to the polls, the Dow eked out a gain of 19.28 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 13,112.44. The S&P 500 gained 3.06 points, or 0.22 percent, to finish at 1,417.26. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq rose 17.53 points, or 0.59 percent, to end at 2,999.66. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, jumped above 18 points.
Monday, which represents the last full day of trading before Tuesday's election, is unlikely to be the last day of focus as the 2012 election is slated to be one of the closest races in modern history. Polls show President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney engaged in a tight race that may come down to voters in Ohio and Florida.
Traders expressed caution ahead of the election, saying Monday's trading session was likely little more than an attempt to buy time ahead of Tuesday's election. Market experts say traders were largely hunkered down for a busy week, which could include an unexpectedly long post-election process and the threat of another storm along the eastern seaboard. Investors will also be keeping a close eye on congressional races to determine how the U.S. may deal with a looming deadline for solving the nation's "fiscal calamity."
"I honestly think the markets are going to sit here and mark time," said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at the brokerage Charles Schwab. "The markets have a tendency to trade sideways before big news events, and nothing is bigger than a presidential election."Frederick said he believes that no matter who wins, the stock market will likely surge once it's over for the sole reason that investors will know the name of the next president.
Among the highlights of the day, Apple rose $7.82, or 1.4 percent, to $584.62 after the company announced that it has sold three million iPads in the three days after it introduced a smaller version, the Mini. Estimates for iPad Mini sales vary from about 1 million in sales on the low end to upwards of 3 million units sold for the first weekend on sale, according to early reports.
Monday's trading session comes in the wake of the last unemployment report released before the election. U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought. The number of jobs added in October however is far fewer than the 250,000 jobs many economists say is needed each month to turn the economy around.