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Stocks Find Post-Holiday Buyers

Updated from 4:20 p.m. EST

Stocks began a holiday-shortened week to the upside Tuesday, as the major averages marched ahead throughout the session and closed higher.

As Wall Street geared up to put the wraps on 2006, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 64.41 points, or 0.5%, to 12,407.63, and the S&P 500 climbed 6.14 points, or 0.4%, to 1416.90. The Nasdaq Composite tacked on 12.33 points, or 0.5%, to 2413.51.

Microsoft (MSFT), GM (GM) and Wal-Mart (WMT) were among the leading advancers on the Dow.

Only four of the 30 industrials fell, led by a 0.4% downtick in 3M (MMM).

On the Nasdaq, InterMune (ITMN) and the newly public Fuwei Films (FFHL) were on the winning side, while Telik (TELK) and Divx (DIVX) stumbled.

Roughly two stocks rose for every one that declined on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. Only 1.34 billion shares changed hands on the Big Board, and the Nasdaq traded 1.07 billion shares.

U.S. markets were closed Monday for Christmas, but retail sales were one of the key stories as traders returned to work. According to MasterCard's SpendingPulse, a retail-data service, year-over-year sales rose 6.6% from Thanksgiving to Christmas. During the same period in 2005, retail sales climbed 8.7%. (AMZN) said this year was its best holiday season ever, with the busiest day coming on Dec. 11. Even so, shares of Amazon were down 1.1% at $39.80. The S&P Retail Index slipped 0.3%.

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