Stocks eked out a gain Monday, their sixth straight win, after a report showed the holiday-shopping season wasn't as bad as predicted.
Major indexes struggled with volume light, given the holiday-shortened week. The Dow Jones Industrial Averagerose 26.98, or 0.3 percent, to close at 10,547.08. The S&P 500added 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent. Just 705 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange.
TheCBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished around 20.06.
IBM and 3M led the Dow. Alcoa and American Express were at the bottom of the pack.
The Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq are all on pace to chalk up their biggest yearly percentage gains since 2003, and with a gain of about 1.5 percent this week, the S&P would have its best annual advance since 1998. The major averages have advanced, albeit modestly, for five consecutive sessions.
Some encouraging news on the economic front: Midwest manufacturing activity rose in November to its highest in nearly a year, the Chicago Fed reported.
Today's $44 billion 2-year note auction was met with tepid demand. The high yield was 1.089 percent, above expectations. The bid-to-cover ratio was 2.91, above the recent average of 2.8, but foreign and large institutional investor demand was weak. That was to be expected, given that it's the end of the year. Still to come: A $42 billion 5-year auction on Tuesday and a $32 billion 7-year auction on Thursday.
Holiday sales (Nov. 1 to Dec. 24) rose 3.6 percentfrom last year, MasterCard's SpendingPulse report showed.
"This game of chicken that went on between retailers and shoppers, it looks like the retailers won," Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan, told Reuters. "They held out, there weren't deep discounts prior to Christmas, and people actually came in and bought the merchandise, so that bodes well."
Among the season's early winners were Gap , Walmart and Amazon .
Gap and Walmart got out front with heavy discounts — about 60 percent of Gap's store space was devoted to discounted items, according to Wedbush store checks.
Amazon benefited from strong Kindle and e-book sales. The online retailer said its customers actually bought more e-books than physical bookson Christmas Day — the first time ever that's happened.
This week is expected to be another big one for retailers. January may be weaker than last year as many shoppers skipped the gift cards, instead searching for bargains on specific items.
Apple rose, after hitting an all-time high last Thursday, amid rumors that the company will soon be out with a tablet computer, popularly referred to as the "iPad."