Stocks close mixed, post best week since November

U.S. stocks ended mixed in the shortened Christmas Eve session Thursday, holding most of the gains for a week in which commodities and beaten-down sectors of the market led. ( Tweet This )

The major U.S. averages ended the week about 2.5 percent higher or more, their best week since the one ended Nov. 20.

"I think the big news of the week is Santa Claus has come to Wall Street early and brought us to break-even levels for the year," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital.

The question is whether that rally, led by some recovery in hard-hit areas of the market, will continue.

The S&P 500 closed lower but held in the green for 2015 after ending there Wednesday. The index failed to hold intraday attempts at gains as energy led all sectors except health care lower.

Energy closed down nearly 1 percent, holding gains of 4.6 percent for the week. The sector is still more than 20 percent lower for the year so far as the worst performer in the S&P 500.

The Nasdaq composite held slight gains as Facebook, semiconductor and biotech stocks advanced.

Year-to-date, weekly performance


The Dow Jones industrial average failed to hold intraday attempts at gains as Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Nike weighed.

Oil remained near multi-year lows, but extended recent gains. U.S. crude oil futures settled up 60 cents, or 1.60 percent, at $38.10 a barrel, for a 9 percent weekly gain. Brent was last trading just below $38 a barrel. Natural gas inventories declined slightly from the previous week, according to the EIA.

The stock market closed at 1 p.m., ET, for Christmas Eve and remains closed Friday for Christmas Day. Oil settled early at 1:30 p.m., and the bond market was scheduled for a 2 p.m. close.

Read MoreCashin: Concerned about economy; oil to retest lows

"I think today's really about retail. It's really the last day for (investors) to focus on the Christmas season," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. He noted unseasonably warm weather in most of the United States may encourage more shopping on Dec. 26, a day he said has recently become more important for retail.

The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) closed down nearly 1 percent but held gains of more than 2 percent for the week.

"I think a lot of people were short coming into this week. (They're) positioning before the end of the year," Sarhan said. "Investors are looking for the next bullish catalyst out there."

Read MoreStocks struggling to squeak out gain for year

In economic news, weekly jobless claims came in at 267,000.

Treasury yields were little changed, with the 2-year yield near 0.99 percent and the 10-year yield around 2.24 percent.

The U.S. dollar index was about 0.4 percent lower against major world currencies, with the euro near $1.095 and the yen at 120.27 yen against the greenback.

As of Thursday's close, the S&P 500 was up 0.1 percent for the year so far, while the Nasdaq composite was up about 6.6 percent year-to-date. The Dow Jones industrial average was 1.5 percent lower for 2015.

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In corporate news, Nike's 2-for-1 stock split took effect Thursday. Class B of the new shares closed down 1.8 percent.

Read More Early movers: PEP, NKE, BBY, JCP, H, NFLX, GMCR & more

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 50.44 points, or 0.29 percent, at 17,552.17, with Chevron leading decliners and DuPont the greatest advancer.

The index closed up 2.47 percent for the week, with Caterpillar the best performer and Walt Disney and Nike the only decliners on the week.

The Dow transports posted gains of 3.51 percent for the week.

The S&P 500 closed down 3.3 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,060.99, with energy leading nine sectors lower and health care the only advancer.

The S&P gained 2.76 percent for the week, with energy leading all 10 sectors higher on the week.

The Nasdaq composite closed up 2.56 points, or 0.05 percent, at 5,048.49.

The Nasdaq posted 2.55 percent higher for the week. Apple ended the week up 1.89 percent.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, held near 15.5.

About eight stocks advanced for every seven decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 393 million and a composite volume of 1.4 billion in the close.

Gold futures for February delivery settled up $7.60 at $1,075.90 an ounce.