Wall Street edges up to 2009 highs as holiday sales help

Wall Street edges up to 2009 highs as holiday sales help

New York: US stocks edged higher for a sixth straight day on Monday as data indicating improved consumer spending lifted shares of retailers, offsetting a drop in airline shares amid security worries.

Indexes hit fresh closing highs for 2009, but volume was light in what was expected to be a slow last week of trading for 2009, with investors attempting to hold on to solid profits for the year.

Sales at US retailers rose 3.6% for the period from 1 November to Christmas Eve, but gained only 1% when an extra shopping day this year was excluded, data from MasterCard Advisors unit SpendingPulse showed.

Still, the data was enough to bolster shares of leading retailers, including Macy’s Inc, up 1.1% at $17.76.

“A few people were looking for a disaster, so that’s a little bit of a boost," said Fred Dickson, market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

“It looks like we’re drifting into year end with a modest rally on light volume."

Airline stocks fell as the United States tightened airline security after a Nigerian man was charged with smuggling explosives aboard a trans-Atlantic flight and attempting to blow up the plane.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 26.98 points, or 0.26%, to end at 10,547.08. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index inched up 1.30 points, or 0.12%, to 1,127.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 5.39 points, or 0.24%, to 2,291.08.

The S&P 500 is up about 25% for the year.

AMR Corp, the parent of American Airlines, lost 4.8% to $7.75, while Delta Air Lines Inc dropped 4.1% to $11.29. The NYSE Arca Airline index shed 1.8%.

On Monday afternoon, a branch of Al Qaeda said it was behind the failed Christmas Day attack, according to a Web statement.

“The airlines security concerns from the weekend certainly added a little heightened anxiety," said Micheal James, senior trader at Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.

US oil futures rose 72 cents to settle at $78.77 a barrel, after hitting $79.12, a five-week high. Energy shares advanced, picking up their cue from climbing oil prices. Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp rose 0.6% to $69.08.

Among other retailers, Amazon.com Inc rose 0.6% to $139.31 on Nasdaq after it said customers bought more e-books than physical books for the first time ever on Christmas Day.

The S&P Retail Index added 0.3%.

Volume was exceptionally light on the New York Stock Exchange, with only about 705.31 million shares changing hands, compared with last year’s estimated average daily volume of 1.49 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 1.25 billion shares traded, also well below last year’s daily average of 2.28 billion.

Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a ratio of about 16 to 15.

On the Nasdaq, though, the opposite trend held sway, with about five stocks falling for every four that rose.