Major Averages Posting Modest Gains On Another Quiet Day

After ending the previous session slightly higher, stocks have fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The choppy trading on the day extends the lackluster performance seen over the past several sessions.

Currently, the major averages are posting modest gains. The Dow is up 42.03 points or 0.2 percent at 24,816.33, the Nasdaq is up 8.51 points or 0.1 percent at 6,947.84 and the S&P 500 is up 2.34 points or 0.1 percent at 2,683.96.

The modest strength currently visible on Wall Street may partly reflect so-called window dressing, as investors look to polish their portfolios going into the end of the year.

Nonetheless, many traders remain away from their desks ahead of the New Year’s weekend, leading to another light trading day.

Traders have largely shrugged off the latest economic news, including a report from the Labor Department showing first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly came in unchanged in the week ended December 23rd.

The report said initial jobless claims came in at 245,000, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised level. Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 240,000.

A separate report from MNI Indicators showed Chicago-area business activity unexpectedly expanded at a faster rate in the month of December.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer climbed to 67.6 in December from 63.9 in November, with a reading above 50 indicating growth.

The increase surprised economists, who had expected the business barometer to drop to 62.0. The unexpected advance lifted the index to its highest level since March of 2011.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors are once again showing only modest moves, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Trucking stocks have shown a significant move to the downside, however, with the Dow Jones Trucking Index falling by 1.4 percent. The index is pulling back off the record closing high set on Wednesday.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services (JBHT) led the…

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