US stocks edge higher on quiet, abbreviated trading day

December 25th, 2008 - 8:15 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Dec 25 (DPA) US stocks made modest gains Wednesday on a shortened trading day ahead of the Christmas holiday, after consumer spending fell less than expected in November.The US Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of US economic output, fell 0.6 percent in November as the country grappled with a recession that has lasted more than a year.

Accounting for inflation, spending increased 0.6 percent on the month. The better-than-expected figures are largely due to heavy holiday discounts provided by retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Durable goods orders also dropped less than forecast, dropping one percent in November after plummeting 8.4 percent in October. Demand for computers, machinery and defence equipment led the way, the Commerce Department said.

Retailers are bracing for one of their worst holiday shopping seasons in decades. Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp Wednesday said retail store traffic in the weekend before Christmas plummeted 24 percent compared to the same weekend in 2007.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 48.99 points, or 0.58 percent, to 8,468.48. The S&P 500 climbed 2.06 points, or 0.24 percent, to 865.22. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index gained 3.36 points, or 0.22 percent, to cloase at 1,524.90.

Trading ended three hours earlier than usual and the volume of trading was the lowest since Dec 26, 2003, Bloomberg News reported. The New York Stock Exchange will be closed Thursday.

The US currency dropped against the euro to 71.36 euro cents from 71.70 euro cents Tuesday. The dollar rose to 90.43 yen from 90.91 yen Tuesday.

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