US Stocks Hold Slim Gains

Tuesday near midday US stocks sputtered after a six-session, year-end winning streak that has left the major indexes at their highest point since the fall of 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added a few points over two hours into the session. The S&P 500 index (SPX) was barely changed. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost a few points.

Stocks managed slim gains Monday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at the highest levels since Oct. 1, 2008 and the Nasdaq ending at the highest point since Sept. 3, 2008.

Trading volume is expected to be light this week, with many market pros taking some or all of the holiday-shortened trading week off. All financial markets are closed Friday for New Year's Day and many participants will cut out early Thursday ahead of New Year's Eve, reports.

In the meantime, Nasdaq Composite rose 0.2% to 2291.08, while the S&P 500 rose 0.1% to 1127.78.

"Into the lull between Christmas and the new year and [leading indexes] are all sitting above resistance levels and in potential 'new high' clean air," said Simon Denham, managing director at Capital Spreads. Markets set new highs for the year last Thursday.

"It must be admitted, however, that there has been a limited reaction to all the indexes finally breaking clear. Much of this might be a consequence of the time of year of the event but it must be admitted that buyers seem few and far between just now," he said.

He added that with the Dow trading around 10560, traders will be on the lookout for any attempt by the market to get back under the next support level at 10520.

Markets on Monday got a helping hand from retailers who rose on back of a report from MasterCard Inc.'s (MTA) SpendingPulse unit that showed improved retail spending over the holiday period.

More indications of consumer sentiment will come later on Tuesday, with the Conference Board releasing its consumer-confidence index for December at 10 a.m., EST. A survey of economists by MarketWatch is calling for the index to rise to 54.0 from 49.5 from November. That would keep the index in the narrow range it's been in since May with consumers still anxious about their finances and job prospects, The Wall Street Journal repots.

News agencies also report, the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials held gains on Tuesday, as consumer confidence improved more than expected in December but house prices were flat in October after five months of increases.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was slightly lower, led down by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 16.55 points, or 0.16 percent, at 10,563.63. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 0.31 points, or 0.03 percent, at 1,128.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 3.28 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,287.80, Reuters reports.

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