Santa rally begins: better late than never!

The S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has rocketed up 1.4% in mid-morning trading, following strong gains on world markets overnight.

The Dow Jones and broader S$P 500 both gained a whopping 2.4%, while the UK’s FTSE 100 added just over 2%. The tech heavy NASDAQ also jumped, rising 2.2%.

For the S&P 500, it was the best two-day gain since 2011, according to Bloomberg. Much of the gains can be attributed to the sharemarket friendly comments by US Federal Reserve President Janet Yellen, and strong US economic data. Ms Yellen suggested low interest rates may be here to stay until 2017, although they are expected to rise gradually from late next year.

While China may be struggling to maintain growth above 7%, a resurgent US economy may be about to power global markets to new highs in 2015.

In local news, Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) has come in for a scathing attack from media outlets amid reports the retailer is threatening suppliers in the lead up to Christmas. Fairfax reports that Woolies has suggested some suppliers may find their products removed from sale or reallocated to less prominent shelf space, if they didn’t contribute funds to support the company’s Cheap, Cheap marketing campaign.

My own personal opinion is that this is a disgraceful act by Woolworths if true, and management need to come clean.

Embattled oil and gas producer Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) has shored up its funding needs with a new $1 billion loan facility with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ). Brokers had been clamouring for the company to raise capital, as Santos’s share price halved in the face of falling oil prices.

Don’t believe the hype

Cosmetics giant Sephora had pledged to put an end to Australian retailers’ price gouging when it opened its first store on December 5. But it seems that was all hype and Fairfax Media are reporting that prices on some products are up to 60% more expensive than the same product sold in the company’s US website. That will be music to the ears of department store retailers Myer Holdings Ltd (ASX: MYR) and David Jones. Cosmetics is one of their highest margin products, and aggressive pricing by Sephora would have put plenty of pressure on the locals to lower prices.

And finally, Motley Fool writers and yours truly have each picked their Top Three Stocks for 2015. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in Woolworths and Santos. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

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