Stocks Edge Above the Flat Line

Stocks in New York trade with modest gains as investors absorb the latest unemployment and mortgage data.
Publish date:

Updated from 9:47 a.m. EST

Stocks on Wall Street were up marginally Wednesday despite the release of higher-than-expected jobless claims and other economic data on a holiday-shortened trading day for U.S. markets.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 40 points at 8459, and the

S&P 500

gained 3 points at 866. The


was recently up 2 points at 1523.

Markets will close at 1 p.m. EST ahead of the Christmas holiday, but there was no shortage of data. Mortgage application data, personal income data and initial jobless claims, retail sales and durable goods data were all released early Wednesday.

The Labor Department reported that Initial applications for

unemployment benefits

increased to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 last week from 554,000 in the prior week, well above expectations for 558,000.


consumer spending

declined 0.6% in November, 0.2% less than expected, according to the Commerce Department. Personal income fell 2%, vs. an expectation for no change.

Durable orders fell by 1%, vs. an expectation for a 3.1% drop, according to the Commerce Department.

In company news,


(WMT) - Get Report

said late Tuesday that, after years of dispute, it will pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits associated with wage-and-hour violations.

Automakers worldwide continue to feel the economic crunch. Japanese automaker


(TM) - Get Report

said Wednesday its global vehicle sales declined 21.8% in November, the greatest decline in eight years. Meanwhile, its rival,



, said its worldwide sales also declined, falling 19.8%.

Japan's No. 2 carmaker,


(HMC) - Get Report

said Wednesday that its global production in November fell 9.9% to 326,176 vehicles, the biggest drop in five years. Honda does not provide global vehicle sales.

As Tokyo is working to combat the global economic crisis, Japan's cabinet approved a $974.12 billion budget for the next fiscal year, the largest amount ever for an initially planned budget, according to a report in

The Wall Street Journal


Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with losses Wednesday. While, the FTSE in London was falling a fraction of a percent, and the DAX in Frankfurt was closed for the day.

In commodities, oil continued to fall, giving up $1.29 to $37.69 a barrel. Gold was rising $4.30 to $842.40 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were recently rising. The 10-year was up 2/32 to yield 2.2%, and the 30-year was adding 8/32, yielding 2.6%. The dollar was weaker against the euro, pound, and yen.

Stocks on Wall Street closed with losses Tuesday as investors digested the final

gross domestic product

figure for the third quarter and more dim housing numbers.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.