Stocks inch up on Christmas Eve


Stocks are holding their gains before a shortened Christmas Eve session.

S&P 500 futures are up less than one-tenth of a percent, one day after climbing half a percent to a new record closing high, while European indexes are also up about half a percent. Asia was modestly higher in the overnight session, led by a 1 percent gain in Hong Kong after China's central bank took steps to ease worries of a credit crunch.

The market closes three hours early, at 1 p.m. ET today, but there are still several items on the economic agenda. Weekly mortgage applications, usually released on Wednesday, already came out and showed a continued decline in home-related borrowing because of higher interest rates. Durable-goods orders are next at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by the FHFA Housing Price Index at 9 a.m. ET and new-home sales an hour later. There is no trading tomorrow in observance of Christmas.

Equities have been advancing steadily all year thanks to an improving economy, ample cash on the sidelines, and a benign monetary backdrop. The S&P 500 consolidated between 1780 and 1810 between mid-November and mid-December, only to break out last Wednesday after the Federal Reserve announced a modest decrease in monetary stimulus. It's closed at new record highs in three of the last four sessions.

While consumer-discretionary and health-care stocks led the advance earlier in the year, our researchLAB market scanner shows sentiment shifting in the last month toward technology and industrial companies. That reflects expectations that businesses will increase spending and drive the next phase of the economic expansion.

Homebuilders and related companies have also been coming to life amid a flurry of call buying in the last two weeks. They had lagged since the spring as interest rates increased.

Copper is the biggest mover among commodities this morning, advancing about half a percent. Crude oil is inching higher, natural gas isd down fractionally, and precious metals are mixed. The main theme in foreign-exchange markets is weakness in the Japanese yen, which tends to be positive for equity prices.

In company-specific news, Supernus Pharmaceuticals is indicated higher by 17 percent after announcing that the Food and Drug Administration approved its Orenitram heart drug. CalAmp is down more than 8 percent after forecasting fourth-quarter earnings and revenue below analyst estimates.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 OptionMonster® Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: SPX



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