Q: How often should I review my stock holdings?

- H.R., Adrian, Mich.

A: Ideally, follow the companies frequently - perhaps every three months, when quarterly reports are issued. At that time, read through the report (the annual report is long, but quarterly reports are much briefer) and through past news releases, which you can usually find at company websites. With big, established, long-term holdings, you can get away with checking in less often. Younger, smaller outfits, such as shoemaker Crocs, are likely to fluctuate much more than blue chips, such as General Electric. But even blue chips can have sharp moves.

Stocks inch higher

STOCKS CLOSED higher Wednesday, their first gain of the week, as bank shares rose and comments by President Obama made investors optimistic that a quick deal could be made to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

"We can probably solve this in about a week; it's not that tough," Obama said in lunchtime remarks to the Business Roundtable in Washington. The comments helped push the market higher, said one market strategist.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 82.71 points to end at 13,034.49.