Wall Street continued its push for a happy holiday, with stocks closing higher Tuesday as investors focused on positive housing news and the prospects of a mild Santa Claus rally.
That at least was the reaction from what few investors remained in the market as a wild 2009 nears what likely will be a quiet close.
Trading in a narrow range on very light volume, stocks were powered higher by home builders and energy companies.
The former group took its cure from a National Realtors Association report that said home sales rose 7.4 percent in November—much better than expected—though the gains came mostly from the low end of the market and one in three sales was off a foreclosure.
The latter group gained as oil prices climbed over $74 a barrel amid talk from OPEC that it wanted prices to stay in the $70-$80 range.
"It feels like were going to keep trickling up until the end of the year," said Dave Lutz, managing director for trading at Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore. "This is a typical seasonality trade where you have anybody that has been chasing performance needs to lock down into some holdings. Also, people are starting to get more positive about the outlook for next year."
The dollar was mixedas light trading also swept across the currency markets. The Chicago Board Options Exchange's Volatility Index for the first time in more than a year slipped below 20, a number generally considered the yardstick for high fluctuation. The VIX is considered the market's most reliable measure of investor fear.
Analysts said the fall in the VIX reflected the likelihood that the rest of 2009 will be the quiet preceding a more active January.