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Wall Street clings to slight gains


Wall Street. Photo: Politico

Wall Street. Photo: Politico

WALL Street held onto meager gains in subdued trading on Wednesday, underpinned by healthcare and consumer stocks after a flood of data suggested the U.S. economy was growing modestly.

The data left intact expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 when it meets for the last time this year on Dec. 15-16.

Worries about the fallout from the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey, which weighed on stocks on Tuesday, eased as traders looked forward to Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Data showed claims for jobless benefits fell more than expected to 260,000 last week, while durable goods orders for October, excluding aircraft, increased 1.3 percent, far more than the 0.4 percent expected.

However, other reports suggested consumers were not in a spending mood, with consumer spending increasing just 0.1 percent in October compared with the 0.3 percent expected.

The University of Michigan’s final index on consumer sentiment for November also fell short of estimates.

The focus now turns to Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

“That’s going to be the key, the swing factor for the next couple of weeks – how holiday sales shape up,” said Michael Baele, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve in Portland, Oregon.

“When you consider the job market, low energy costs (and) low interest rates, the consumer’s in pretty good shape.”

At 12:42 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 30.57 points, or 0.17 percent, at 17,842.76, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 2.82 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,091.96 and the Nasdaq Composite index .IXIC was up 18.70 points, or 0.37 percent, at 5,121.50.

Only three of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with gains in the healthcare .SPXHC and consumer discretionary .SPLRCD sectors offsetting losses in the energy .SPNY and utilities .SPLRCU.

Amazon (AMZN.O), up about 1 percent at $676.15, was the biggest influence on the consumer discretionary sector, while Pfizer’s (PFE.N) 3.4 percent rise to $33.07 led health stocks.

Heavy equipment maker Deere (DE.N) was up 3.9 percent at $79.36 after its quarterly profit beat estimates.

HP Inc (HPQ.N), the new company that houses the former Hewlett-Packard Co’s printer and PC businesses, dropped 13 percent to $12.74 after it forecast an adjusted profit for the first quarter that fell short of estimates.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE.N), which now holds HP’s corporate hardware and services businesses, rose 2.3 percent to $14.01 after it maintained its profit full-year profit forecast.

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