US STOCKS-Wall St gains in brief post-holiday session

Chuck Mikolajczak
Friday, 29 Nov 2013 | 12:05 PM ET

* Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq on track for third straight monthly gain

* Markets closing at 1 p.m.; volume expected to be light

* Retailers in view as shopping season unofficially starts

* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.6 pct

NEW YORK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose modestly on Friday, with investors wary of making big bets in a short post-holiday session, though the S&P 500 is set for its longest weekly winning streak in 10 years.

Volume was light, with slightly over 1.1 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data, as many U.S. investors remained out following the Thanksgiving holiday. The U.S. stock market will end its regular session three hours early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT), following an all-day closure on Thursday.

"It's just drifting up because at the moment, the path of least resistance is up. There is no news that is going to push it lower," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.

"There is nothing negative out there for anyone to take anything off the table."

Retail stocks were in the spotlight as the holiday shopping season gets under way. Many stores opened on Thanksgiving for the first time ever this year, but shoppers appeared to be making careful purchases.

Equities have rallied in recent weeks on the back of expectations for continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve. The Dow and the S&P 500 closed at record highs on Wednesday while the Nasdaq ended at a 13-year high.

Investors will focus on retail stocks in an attempt to get an early read on the strength of the holiday shopping season. "Black Friday" typically marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, but many stores opened on Thursday and offered steep discounts.

The S&P retail index rose 0.4 percent. Among some of the most active retail names, Target Corp declined 0.6 percent to $64.02, Best Buy Co Inc jumped 1.6 percent to $40.24, and J.C. Penney Co gained 0.3 percent to $10.11.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.77 points or 0.29 percent, to 16,144.10. The S&P 500 gained 4.92 points or 0.27 percent, to 1,812.15. The Nasdaq Composite added 22.418 points or 0.55 percent, to 4,067.168.

The Nasdaq was bolstered by the tech sector's strength, with eBay Inc up 2.6 percent to $50.59 and Microsoft Corp up 1.6 percent at $38.19.

For the month of November, the Dow is up 3.9 percent, the S&P 500 is up 3.2 percent and the Nasdaq up 3.8 percent.

For the week, the Dow is up 0.5 percent and the S&P 500 is up 0.4 percent, with both indexes on track for their eighth straight weekly gain. The Nasdaq is up 1.7 percent for the week.

The S&P 500's eight-week winning streak the longest run for the benchmark index since a nine-week climb between November 2003 and January 2004.

While the Fed's stimulus program is expected to put a floor under equity prices for as long as it continues, recent volatility has come on uncertainty over when the program will end. The central bank has said it would begin to slow the program when certain economic measures meet its targets. Data on Wednesday, including on the labor market and consumer sentiment, pointed to economic improvement.

In the health-care sector, CVS Caremark Corp shares gained 0.8 percent to $67.28 in the wake of Wednesday's news that CVS will buy drug infusion services provider Coram LLC for $2.1 billion. The transaction will let CVS Caremark bolster its pharmacy benefits management business by offering cost-effective delivery of specialty drugs.

In the agribusiness sector, shares of Archer Daniels Midland fell 2.3 percent to $40.52. The stock's slide followed news that Australia rejected ADM's $2.6 billion takeover of GrainCorp, bowing to pressure from grain growers in a rare and surprising decision.