US stocks mixed on last trading day

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14 points to close at 11,573.49

US stocks ended mixed in a light day of trading after reports showed small improvements in consumer spending and the job market.

The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 0.4% in November from the month before. That was slightly below expectations of a 0.5% gain.

In a separate report, the Labour Department said the number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time dropped by 3,000 last week to 420,000. That number is just low enough to indicate modest job growth.

“While you did not see a marked drop in the jobless numbers, there is a steady decline,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial.

“When you look at the four-week moving average, it suggests that we are starting to see a floor in initial unemployment claims.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14 points, or 0.1%, to close at 11,573.49. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.07, or 0.2%, to 1,256.77. The Nasdaq composite index fell 5.88, or 0.2%, to 2,665.60.

All three indexes ended the shortened trading week higher. The Dow rose 0.7%. The S&P 500 rose 1%, and the Nasdaq 0.8%.

Alcoa gained 1.3% to 15.34 dollars to lead the 30 stocks that make up the Dow. Bank of America had the largest fall, losing 2.4 % to 13.06.

Bond prices fell slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.39% from 3.35% late on Wednesday. The dollar fell 0.3% against an index of six heavily-traded currencies.

Falling stocks outpaced rising ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was a light 616 million shares on the last trading day before Christmas. Markets will be closed tomorrow for the holiday.

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