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Stocks close mixed; Dow posts narrowest trading range of year

U.S. stocks closed narrowly mixed in low volume trade after a slew of data releases Wednesday, the last full trading day of the holiday week. ( Tweet This )

"The data came in solid, but not strong. When we take the data, obviously everything will be trumped by the payroll number. If we're going to keep valuations in the market we're going to need to see more growth," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.

"One of the things about this week and, I would argue, the end of December as well is, volume declines and you don't want to project market direction when volume is low," she said.

The Dow Jones industrial average traded in a 53-point range, its narrowest of 2015.

Major averages 1-day performance


The SPDR Retail ETF (XRT) posted four-straight days of gains for the first time in more than a month with a rise of nearly 1.4 percent Wednesday. The index closed above its 50-day moving average for the first time since Nov. 6, led by Stage Stores, Fred's and Sears Holdings.

"You've got the consumer squarely in focus, as it should be," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

After mixed retailer earnings, analysts are watching for indications on consumer spending especially with Black Friday in two days.

U.S. markets are closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and the stock market closes at 1 p.m. ET on Friday.

The S&P 500 failed to hold higher in the close as energy weighed, off 0.8 percent after earlier falling more than 1 percent. Health care and consumer stocks led advancers.

U.S. crude oil futures settled up 17 cents, or 0.40 percent, at $43.04 a barrel. Crude turned higher after Baker Hughes said the weekly U.S. oil rig count dropped 9 for the week. Earlier, oil came off session lows after the EIA said U.S. crude inventories rose by 1 million barrels.

The Dow Jones industrial average remained in the red for 2015 after attempting to turn green for 2015, with Nike contributing most to gains.

"We had an inexplicable rally late yesterday. Europe, with the weaker euro and also playing catch-up to us, are having a pretty good day," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. The "market is just churning here and waiting for some sort of direction and maybe waiting for direction from the Fed, even though that's pretty much done. It's the holidays. Trading is light."

The STOXX Europe 600 gained 1.38 percent, while the German DAX closed up more than 2 percent to come within 10 percent of its April 10 intraday all-time high for the first time since August.

Reuters reported that European Central Bank officials are considering further monetary policy easing.

Greater expectations of stimulus sent the euro to a low of $1.0566 against the dollar, its lowest level since April. The U.S. dollar hit a high of 100.17, its highest level since March.

In the close, the U.S. dollar pared gains to hold about 0.2 percent higher, with the euro near $1.062 and the yen at 122.72 yen against the greenback.

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Dow futures held earlier gains after early morning data mostly topped expectations and continued to indicate moderate economic growth.

"I guess the slack was in personal spending," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. "These numbers are good and basically they put us closer to a rate hike in December than ever before."

Analysts noted the key report for the Federal Reserve remains the November employment report, due Dec. 4.

October U.S. personal spending rose 0.1 percent, while personal income rose 0.4 percent. In the 12 months through October, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index was up 0.2 percent after a similar rise in September, Reuters said.

The PCE deflator in the personal income and spending report is the Fed's preferred inflation gauge.

Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager, Private Client Reserve, at U.S. Bank, said the PCE deflator is "still stubbornly low."

"At this stage of the game we're still trying to guess what the FOMC does," he said.

Most analysts expect the Fed to raise rates in December, and focus for many market participants has shifted to the pace of tightening next year.

Read More If the Fed hikes, who in the world will follow?

Durable goods soundly topped expectations with a headline rise of 3.0 percent in October. The non-defense, ex-aircraft figure rose 1.3 percent after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent gain in September.

"It's an encouraging reversal of the prior two months. It points to the potential for slightly stronger business investment," said Janelle Nelson, portfolio analyst, RBC Wealth Management, U.S.

Weekly jobless claims fell more than expected to 260,000.

Data on the housing market included a 3.2 percent decline in weekly mortgage applications, while the FHFA home price index showed a 0.8 percent rise in September from August.

October new home sales showed a gain of 10.7 percent.

The University of Michigan's final read on November consumer sentiment came in at 91.3, up slightly from October's final read of 90.0.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index missed estimates and declined for a second straight month in November to 90.4.

The flash November U.S. Markit services PMI came in at 56.5, above October's final read of 54.8.

Treasury yields traded little changed, with the 2-year yield near 0.93 percent and the 10-year yield at 2.23 percent in the close.

The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion of 7-year notes at a high yield of 2.013 percent.

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U.S. stocks eked out gains Tuesday, as gains in oil prices and energy stocks helped offset an earlier decline following news of a downed Russian jet near the Syrian border.

"Yesterday's rebound is a reflection of the positive seasonal influences that are at hand," BTIG Chief Technical Strategist Katie Stockton said in a note. "Short-term momentum continues to improve, and intermediate-term momentum is positive for most global equity benchmarks. We think expansion in breadth, or market participation, to small- and mid-cap stocks will provide the boost the market needs for a strong finish to the year."

The week of Thanksgiving is seasonally positive for stocks. Over the last 10 years, the S&P 500 was up for six of those holiday weeks and posted an average return of 1.9 percent, according to Kensho.

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As of Wednesday's close, only the Nasdaq composite was on track for weekly gains. The Dow and S&P 500 were a touch lower week-to-date.

The Dow transports closed a touch lower, down about 1.5 percent for the week so far.

The Russell 2000 outperformed, up almost 0.8 percent Wednesday and on track for a weekly gain of nearly 2 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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In earnings news, Deere closed up about 4.8 percent after reporting earnings that soundly topped expectations, while revenue missed slightly. The firm said equipment sales would drop about 7 percent for fiscal 2016 and 11 percent for the current quarter compared to a year earlier.

Hewlett-Packard posted its final earnings report before the company's split into HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The results missed expectations on both the top and bottom line. Separately, each of the new firms gave light guidance.

Shares of HP closed down nearly 13.7 percent, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise closed up 3.1 percent.

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The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 1.2 points, or 0.01 percent, to 17,813.39, with Pfizer the greatest advancer and Microsoft leading decliners.

The S&P 500 closed down 0.27 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,088.87, with health care leading four sectors higher and energy the greatest laggard.

The Nasdaq composite closed up 13.33 points, or 0.26 percent, at 5,116.14.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, held near 15.

About three stocks advanced for every two decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 677 million and a composite volume of about 2.8 billion in the close.

Gold futures settled down $3.80 to $1,070.00 an ounce.

CNBC's Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.

Disclosure: CNBC's parent NBCUniversal has a minority stake in Kensho.

On tap this week:

Thursday

Thanksgiving holiday

Friday

Black Friday

Stock market closes at 1 p.m.

*Planner subject to change.

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