Dow rises 49 points in light trading


POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

NEW YORK » Wall Street rose modestly in light holiday-shortened trading yesterday after the government released downbeat, but unsurprising, readings on rising U.S. joblessness and declining consumer spending.

The swelling rate of unemployment has been particularly worrisome to investors. The more people lose their jobs, or fear they will lose their jobs, the more they close their wallets. And consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

But Wall Street's reaction to yesterday's economic data was a shrug. Investors have largely been factoring in bad numbers for the fourth quarter as Americans adjusted to the slumping economy, and as banks and automakers scrambled for funding from the U.S. government to stay afloat.

The Labor Department said initial applications for unemployment benefits rose more than anticipated to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 last week. That was the highest level since November 1982, though the work force has grown by about half since then.

Other reports were gloomy, but less grim than anticipated. The Commerce Department said consumer spending dropped 0.6 percent in November - the fifth straight monthly drop - and durable goods orders fell 1 percent in November.

Floor traders, as they do every year on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, gathered for a moment at the New York Stock Exchange to sing “;Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie.”; The song is about waiting for the rain to end, and the Big Board tradition has roots going back to the Great Depression.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 48.99, or 0.58 percent, to 8,468.48, after falling for five straight sessions. The Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 4.99, or 0.58 percent, to 868.15, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 3.36, or 0.22 percent, to 1,524.90.

Advancing issues beat decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume amounted to 403.7 million shares.

Bond prices, like stocks, were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose modestly to 2.19 percent from 2.18 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell $3.63 to settle at $35.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantiles Exchange.