Stocks End a Touch Higher

The gains were nothing like the past two days, but it was still a third straight win.
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Updated from 4:16 p.m. EST

Stocks in the U.S. seesawed for most of Thursday's session and closed just slightly to the upside as weakness in retailers and financials canceled out strength in the energy sector.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

tacked on 22.28 points, or 0.17%, to 13,311.73. The

S&P 500

was up 0.70 point, or 0.05%, to 1469.72. The

Nasdaq Composite

finished ahead by 5.22 points, or 0.2%, to 2668.13.

Despite the fact that the market strung together its first three-day winning streak since September, breadth was weak. On the

New York Stock Exchange

3.48 billion shares changed hands, as decliners topping advancers by nearly a 6-to-5 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 2.11 billion shares, with losers beating winners 8 to 7.

On the corporate front, the news was mixed.

Sears Holdings

(SHLD)

was one of the drags after it posted a third-quarter profit that plummeted 99% from a year ago to a penny a share.

Results fell well short of estimates, and shares tumbled 10.5% to close at $104.09. Following Sears' earnings, the S&P Retail Index slumped nearly 1%.

On the plus side, another financial name was getting a helping hand, as word came down that

E*Trade

(ETFC) - Get Report

would get a $2.55 billion investment from Citadel Investment Group and that CEO Mitch Caplan would resign. Shares started in positive territory but ultimately ended down 8.7% to $4.82.

The Amex Securities Broker/Dealer Index, of which E*Trade is a component, lost 1.6%.

Stocks' lackluster movement came after big rallies over the past two days. Last time out, the major averages surged following comments from the

Federal Reserve

that reignited hopes of a rate cut during the central bank's Dec. 11 meeting.

Traders are hoping that more Fed-speak coming later will offer more clues about how the Federal Open Market Committee will vote at its next meeting. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to speak at 7 p.m. EST.

The day was also an active one for economic data. Before the opening bell, the Commerce Department said its preliminary read on third-quarter gross domestic product showed a 4.9% increase. That number was up from the advance number of 3.9% and matched expectations.

The third-quarter personal consumption expenditures price index was unrevised at 1.8%.

Also, the Labor Department said weekly jobless claims numbers jumped by 23,000 to 352,000 claims. Most economists expected claims to hold steady at 330,000.

Separately, the Census Bureau said October new-home sales rose 1.7% to an annualized rate of 728,000 units. However, that gain came after a substantial downward revision to September's data.

U.S. Treasury securities rallied, sending yields down. The 10-year note was up 24/32 in price, yielding 3.94%. The 30-year bond was adding 1-14/32 in price, yielding 4.34%.

In other equity news,

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

was higher after Bear Stearns upgraded the stock to peer perform from underperform. The firm cited a better risk/reward ratio for the automaker. GM tacked on 42 cents, or 1.5%, to $28.81.

Elsewhere, JPMorgan raised its rating for

TiVo

(TIVO) - Get Report

to overweight from underweight one day after the company posted a third-quarter loss that narrowed from a year ago. TiVo climbed $1.48, or 24.8%, to $7.46.

Crude rose after a pipeline explosion in Minnesota. The pipeline, which is operated by

Enbridge Energy Partners

(EEP)

, supplies crude to Midwest refineries from Canada.

Oil finished higher by 39 cents at $91.01 a barrel, well off its high. Earlier, it had been up more than $4 as traders feared the worst. The Amex Oil Index rose 0.7%, led by

Anadarko

(APC) - Get Report

.

Overseas markets were mostly higher. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 4.1% overnight, and Japan's Nikkei 225 added 2.4%. Among European bourses, London's FTSE 100 tacked on 0.7%, and Germany's Xetra Dax was up 0.5%.