Stocks rise amid light trading

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.51 points to close at 11,575.54

US stocks have barely changed amid light trading.

The Dow edged up after Treasury prices fell in the wake of a weak bond auction on Tuesday afternoon. Fewer than expected buyers emerged for the government’s auction of 35 billion dollars of five-year bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.49% from 3.34% late on Monday.

The Dow closed the day higher by 20.51 points, or 0.2%, to 11,575.54. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index was up 0.97, or less than 0.1%, to 1,258.51. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 4.39, or 0.2%, to 2,662.88.

Earlier in the day, the Conference Board announced that consumer confidence in the economy slid to a level of 52.5 in December, down from 54.3 in November, as Americans continued to fret about the high rate of unemployment. The market was expecting a slightly higher reading because of signs of improved consumer spending in the Christmas holiday season this year.

Another factor weighing on the minds of traders is fear that the housing market will continue to fall. Standard&Poor’s/Case-Shiller said on Tuesday that home prices fell 1.3% in October from a month earlier. Home prices slid across the country, including the biggest cities. Prices were down 2.9% in Atlanta, 2% in Chicago, and 1.9% in San Francisco.

Energy and materials companies were posting gains as the price of crude oil gained. Chevron led Dow gainers, rising 1.2% to finish at 91.19 dollars.

American Express had the largest fall, losing 0.6% to 42.79 dollars.

In corporate news, General Motor gained 2.1% to close at 35.32 dollars after a handful of analysts from investment banks that underwrote the carmaker’s IPO initiated coverage with favourable ratings.

Home builder Beazer Homes USA fell 4.5% to 5.37 dollars on the disappointing home prices report.

About 559 million shares changed hands, about half the usual volume on Wall Street. Trading is expected to be light for most of the week as many investors have already closed their books for the year. Falling shares narrowly outpaced rising ones on the New York Stock Exchange.

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