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US STOCKS-Wall Street cautiously inches toward extending records

Chuck Mikolajczak
Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 | 12:52 PM ET

* Consumer confidence unexpectedly falls in November

* Tiffany & Co rises after results, JA Solar falls

* Jos. A. Bank rallies after on offer to buy from Men's Wearhouse

* Indexes up: Dow 0.21 pct, S&P 0.23 pct, Nasdaq 0.50 pct

NEW YORK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks inched higher on Tuesday during a holiday-shortened trading week, but investors remained cautious about placing new bets after the market's rapid rally has sent indexes to record highs.

The S&P 500 has risen nearly 27 percent this year, primarily bolstered by expectations the Federal Reserve's stimulus will continue at least until the end of the year.

Economic data has indicated growth continues to be sluggish, but the Fed's program is expected to keep a floor under equities for as long as the central bank keeps its $85 billion per month in bond purchases in place.

Still, many investors have also expected a pullback in equities given the scope of the equity rally that has put the benchmark S&P index on track for its best yearly performance since 1998 and an unsteady economic recovery.

"Things are OK. They are not great, but we are starting to price in great here, and it's difficult to be a believer at these prices. You have to tread carefully," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.

"I'm not going to say stocks are ragingly expensive, but they are not cheap."

In economic news, the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence unexpected fell in November as Americans worried about their future jobs and earnings prospects.

Other data showed permits for future U.S. home construction rose to the highest in nearly 5-1/2 years in October and prices for single-family homes notched big gains in September, suggesting higher mortgage rates have not halted the housing recovery.

Tiffany & Co jumped 8.5 percent to $87.84 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after the luxury retailer reported third-quarter sales that topped expectations and raised its forecast for full-year profit. The S&P retail index advanced 0.8 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.33 points or 0.21 percent, to 16,105.87, the S&P 500 gained 4.12 points or 0.23 percent, to 1,806.6 and the Nasdaq Composite added 19.924 points or 0.5 percent, to 4,014.498.

Trading is expected to be light this week, likely amplifying volatility, with financial markets closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Markets will also close early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) the following day, known as Black Friday, the unofficial start of the U.S. holiday shopping season.

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc surged 11.1 percent to $56.22 after Men's Wearhouse offered to buy the company for $55 per share in cash. Men's Wearhouse jumped 9.9 percent to $51.72.

JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd stumbled 5.5 percent to $10.05 after reporting a quarterly loss.

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