Stocks Close Out Solid Holiday Week
Stocks closed higher as a holiday rally got a further push from big technology, banks and commodities, though most investors took Christmas Eve off.
The Dow posted a modest gain of less than 2 percent for the week, but that was good enough for its 2009 closing high on Thursday and came amid asome daunting economic news out of the housing market. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was better, posting a gain that approached 3 percent for the Christmas-shortened week.
With portfolio managers looking to tidy up their books by the end of the year, the market's direction was stubbornly higher.
The market closed at 1 pm amid a day of light volume but a strongly positive direction to trading, with gainers beating losers about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE saw just 316 million shares change hands, slow even for a holiday.
Banks and gold stocks led the way, while technology continued its leadership role.
The Senate approved the health care reform bill in a historic Christmas Eve vote. House and Senate conferees will have to work out the differences between their two bills some time after the holidays.
Alcoa led the Dow while insurance giant Travelers also was among the top gainers, and pharmaceutical Merck was the bluechip index's biggest drag.
Otherwise, though, the market was treating the reform bill as almost a non-event, with the SPDR KBW Insurance ETF up less than 1 percent.
On the tech side, Apple was among the Nasdaq's biggest gainers as investors await the company's unveiling of its Notebook computer, perhaps next month. Competitor Dell also posted a handsome gain.
SunTrust was among the banking names on the move.
In economic news, weekly jobless claims fell by 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 452,000 in the week ended Dec. 19, from 480,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.
That was the lowest tally since the week of Sept. 6, 2008, just before the failure of Lehman Brothers accelerated the financial crisis.
A separate report showed orders for long-lasting goods edged up 0.2 percent, less than analysts had expected but weighed by transportation orders. Outside that sector, orders surged in November.
Stocks also were helped by a weakening dollar, boosting some commodity prices. The SPDR Gold Trust ETF, which has been a reliable tracker of the metal's price, gained more than 1 percent.