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The markets seem to be slumbering their way to Christmas.

At mid-morning the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was rising modestly, along with the

S&P 500

. A dip by market leader


dragged down the


. This, despite a vote of confidence for Intel from

Gruntal & Co.

, which increased earnings estimates for 1997.

The two things on investors minds as the holiday approaches? Same as everyone else: keeping warm and last-minute shopping.

With a cold winter brewing, the demand for heating oil boosted the energy sector last week. Today,

Morgan Stanley

TheStreet Recommends

upgraded its ratings on oil and gas firms

USX-Marathon Group

(MRO:NYSE) and

Louis Dreyfus Natural Gas

(LD:NYSE) to a strong buy, and, in turn, shares in both were trading up.

As for retail, who knows. According to this morning's

Wall Street Journal

, holiday shopping this year would fall short of retailers' expectations.

The New York Times

reported retailers to be "full of optimism."

The bottom line? Holiday shopping is a tough phenomenon to gauge, especially while it is happening.

"You can't really know until after the holiday," says Eric Miller, chief investment officer at

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette


Figures released this morning marked another sign of a rosy retail sector--in November personal spending rose .5%, beating expectations, even as personal income growth of .5% disappointed analysts.

By Kevin Petrie