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S&P 500 Falls Just Short of Record Entering Final Weeks of Year


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Federal Reserve brought some much-needed holiday cheer midweek, triggering a three-day rally which saw major indexes jump more than 3% over the past five sessions. The market gains were broad and plentiful after Fed Chair Janet Yellen pledged patience in raising interest rates next year.

The S&P 500 added 0.45%, mere points below its all-time closing high of 2,075 reached early December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 28 points, and the Nasdaq jumped 0.36%.

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Energy shares were the star of Friday trading, bouncing back from weeks of losses as oil prices rebounded off of five-year lows. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 4.5% to $56.52 a barrel.

"It's just a reaction to perceptions that economic activity is not as weak as expected," said James Abate, CIO of Centre Funds, in a call. "It's silly to look into things from an intraday or day-to-day basis without looking at a longer trend and the trend is clearly down."

The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) climbed 3.2% with major oilers and oil services companies pulling the sector higher. Chevron (CVX) added 3.5%, Schlumberger (SLB) gained 3.9%, and Kinder Morgan (KMI) jumped 2.5%.

Trading volume was higher than normal Friday on account of the quadruple-witching session, one of four days of the year in which futures and options contracts expire at once. By market close, volume on domestic stock exchanges had exceeded the average 766 million shares traded over the previous four days.

Among other market movers Friday, veterinary drug developer Aratana Therapeutics (PETX) rocketed 25.7% higher after announcing that its canine osteoarthritis pain drug had performed better in drug trials than a placebo.

In earnings Friday, CarMax (KMX) added 11.2% as third-quarter profit beat forecasts and revenue jumped 16%. Nike (NKE) , though it beat quarterly earnings forecasts, caused concern when it reported the slowest growth rate of future orders in four quarters. Shares were 2.3% lower.

Red Hat (RHT) spiked more than 10% as third-quarter revenue jumped 15% and the company provided positive guidance for its fourth quarter. Finish Line (FINL) tumbled 19.2% as 2015 profit guidance of $1.67 a share missed consensus by 11 cents.

Friday's higher-than-normal trading volume won't likely carry over into the final two holiday-shortened weeks of the year, though. The next two Fridays follow a public holiday so market activity is expected to be even quieter than usual.

"It looks like anybody who wants to put on long-equity exposure into the end of the year has probably done it this morning and is now thinking about their train or airplane," said Abate. "Because of the nature of how the holiday falls this year, volumes are expected to be even lighter than they normally are."

Even if traders have other plans, the economic calendar rolls on uninterrupted next week with key points of data due including housing and domestic growth data. Existing home sales data is slated for Monday with economists expecting strength in October to have continued through to November with sales at an annualized pace of 5.17 million.

Personal income, due out Tuesday, is anticipated to have improved upon the 0.2% gain in October to 0.5% in November. "If the employment report is any indication, incomes should have posted a sizable increase in the month," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a report. The Fed has shown concern as wage growth lagged the overall tightening labor market.

A final third-quarter GDP figure will be released Tuesday morning, alongside durable goods orders which are expected to spike 3.1% in November from 0.3% a month earlier. New home sales for November will also be released with market consensus at an increase of 460,000 from 458,000 in October.

Christmas Eve will be a shortened market session and all markets will be closed on Thursday for the Christmas Day public holiday.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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