Wall St flat ahead of holiday

US stocks in mixed territory ahead of Thanksgiving, Nasdaq holds above 4,000.

United States stocks gave up some gains, while technology shares extended a recent rally that took the Nasdaq Composite Index above 4,000 for the first time in 13 years.

Trading activity is expected to remain light throughout the session ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and an early 1 p.m. EST close for stock trading on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped five points, less than 0.1%, to 16,101.

The S&P 500-stock index was little changed from its previous close as well, rising less than 0.1% to 1,803.

The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 14 points, or 0.4%, to 4,032.

The Dow eked out a gain of less than one point Tuesday, managing to notch a fourth-straight record high, its 43rd record this year. On Tuesday, the Nasdaq Composite closed above 4,000 for the first time since Sept. 7, 2000.

Technology stocks continued to outperform on Wednesday. Former Dow component Hewlett-Packard rallied after a better-than-expected earnings report, helping fuel the sector's advance. International Business Machines led gainers in the Dow industrials. The tech sector outperformed the S&P 500, rising 0.7%, as heavyweight Apple gained.

Stocks were moderately higher for much of the morning's trading, with the Dow up 35 points at its session high, after a string of reports on the US economy, including better-than-expected readings on manufacturing in the Midwest and consumer confidence.

Investors "want to see confident consumers going into the holiday season, " said Chris Gaffney, chief market strategist with EverBank Wealth Management.

Still, Mr Gaffney remains cautious heading into 2014, as he expects individuals to book profits before the end of the year. The S&P 500 is up 26% so far this year, and the Dow industrials closed Tuesday at their 43rd record this year.

The year's strong gains have come alongside continued easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve. Now that corporate-earnings reporting season has come to a close, investors have been sharpening their focus on their outlook for the Fed. The central bank has said it could start to pare back those policies in coming months, but that the decision will depend on economic data.

"Everybody is concentrating on the December Fed meeting," said Mr Gaffney.

While some say that markets are mostly prepared for step back from the Fed's easy-money policies, "I don't think it's fully priced in," he said. "You're going to see a knee-jerk reaction still ... but that's fine, because we haven't had a pullback. It would be healthy."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.755% from 2.696% late Tuesday.

Consumer confidence was stronger than expected in November, as the final reading of the Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for the month was revised up to 75.1 from a preliminary reading of 72.0, above the projected 73.5. The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for October, an index of forward-looking indicators, made a surprise rise of 0.2%, while it was expected to remain unchanged.

The Institute for Supply Management's Chicago-area purchasing managers' index, a reading on manufacturing in the region, slipped to 63.0 in November from October's 65.9, while a decline to 60.0 was expected. Earlier, the Department of Labor reported there were 316,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits in the latest week, fewer than the 330,000 expected. But October orders for durable goods fell by 2%, while economists had expected a 1.7% drop.

European markets got a lift from upbeat economic news from Germany and signs of political stability in the euro zone. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6%. The UK's FTSE 100 index tacked on 0.2%, Germany's DAX gained 0.7% and France's CAC 40 added 0.4%.

In Germany, GfK's forward-looking consumer-sentiment indicator rose to 7.4% in December, the highest level in more than six years, from a revised 7.1% in November, and above expectations of 7.1%.

Separately, Germany's biggest parties have agreed on a deal to forge a coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, ending a month of negotiations. In addition, the government of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta won a confidence vote on the country's 2014 budget late Tuesday, despite opposition from former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The dollar edged slightly lower against the euro and rose against the yen.

Asian markets closed mixed. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.8% after the head of the country's central banks assured the market of more financial overhauls. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average slipped 0.4%, pulling back further from the six-month high reached on Monday.

Crude-oil futures fell 1.9% to $91.92 a barrel. Gold futures edged down 0.1% to $1,240.40 a troy ounce.

In other corporate news, Time Warner Cable edged down after The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that Cox Communications is considering jumping into the bidding for the second-largest cable operator.

Charter Communications has expressed interest in Time Warner Cable, and Comcast is also contemplating a bid, the report said. Shares of Charter and Comcast fell.

CVS Caremark rose after it said it would buy medical provider Coram LLC to continue its push into the specialty-drug market.

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