NEW YORK – US stocks ended mixed in a light day of trading Thursday after reports showed small improvements in consumer spending and the job market.
The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in November from the month before. That was slightly below expectations of a 0.5 percent gain.
In a separate report, the Labor Department said the number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time dropped by 3,000 last week to 420,000. That number is just low enough to indicate modest job growth.
"While you did not see a marked drop in the jobless numbers, there is a steady decline," said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. "When you look at the four-week moving average, it suggests that we are starting to see a floor in initial unemployment claims."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 11,573.49. That's its highest close since Aug. 28, 2008. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.07, or 0.2 percent, to 1,256.77. The Nasdaq composite index fell 5.88, or 0.2 percent, to 2,665.60.
The three major indexes ended the shortened trading week higher. The Dow rose for the fourth straight week, inching up 0.7 percent. The S&P 500 rose 1 percent, and the Nasdaq 0.8 percent.
All three have gained more than 10 percent in 2010. The Nasdaq leads the way, up 17.5 percent for the year.
Alcoa gained 1.3 percent to $15.34 to lead the 30 stocks that make up the Dow. Bank of America Corp. had the largest fall. It lost 2.4 percent to $13.06.
In corporate news, Jo-Ann Stores Inc. said it would be bought by a private equity firm for $1.6 billion. The stock rose 32 percent to $60.19.
Bond prices fell slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.39 percent from 3.35 percent late Wednesday.
The dollar fell 0.3 percent against an index of six heavily-traded currencies.
Falling stocks outpaced rising ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was very low at 2.6 billion shares. Markets will be closed Friday for Christmas.