Stocks Rise on Light Post-Holiday Volume

Stocks on Wall Street are trading with modest gains as investors take in news of GMAC's successful bid for TARP funding.
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Updated from 9:20 a.m. EST

Stocks in New York rose modestly on light volume on Friday's post-holiday trading session.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 64 points at 8532, and the

S&P 500

gained 6.8 points at 872. The

Nasdaq

was edged 1 point higher to 1526.

Later Friday morning, the Economic Cycle Research Institute will release its weekly leading index, a metric of U.S. economic growth.

A slew of other data, including dim housing-sales figures, were released earlier in the week. But the composite didn't torment the market, signaling preparedness according to some Street watchers.

"The preparedness has helped to keep the markets fairly well-balanced despite a cavalcade of very bad economic news, especially the 533,000 decline reported for November payrolls on Dec. 5," writes Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist for Miller Tabak, on his

RealMoney.com blog

. "The latest jobless claims figure, which hit a new high for the cycle on Wednesday, almost certainly will keep the level of preparedness for next Friday's jobs report as high as (or higher than) ahead of the last jobs report."

The strategists expects the financial markets are just as prepared for the next month's set of economic data as they were for this month's, in particular for the monthly employment report, which comes out next Friday. This doesn't mean that equities will rise if results near consensus, but it could reduce the downside, says Crescenzi.

As expected,

retail sales

lagged this holiday season. They fell between 5.5% and 8% this season compared with the year prior, according to preliminary data from SpendingPulse, a division of MasterCard Advisors. Factoring out auto and gas sales, retail sales fell between 2% and 4%.

Meanwhile, financial institutions continue to grope for federal help.

GMAC Financial Services

, the financing arm of

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, joined the ranks of those eligible for government bailout funds late on Christmas Eve. The

Federal Reserve

announced late Wednesday that it had approved GMAC as a bank holding company. That designation gives the company access to government programs, including Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP.

Earlier in the week, commercial lender

CIT Group

(CIT) - Get Report

said the federal government will officially invest $2.33 billion in a preferred equity stake, now that it's received status as a

bank holding company

.

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

also received preliminary approval from the Treasury Department to obtain $3.39 billion in TARP capital.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising. The 10-year was increasing 3.5/32 to yield 2.2%, and the 30-year was up 1/32, yielding 2.6%. The dollar was weaker against the euro, pound, and yen.

In commodities, oil was recently rising $1.02, to $36.37, while gold added $1.30 cents, to $849.30.

Overseas,

Asian stocks

ended mixed on light volume with stocks in Japan rising despite a report that showed industrial production declined sharply. Japan's Nikkei ended higher.

European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were closed.

Stocks on Wall Street closed Wednesday's abbreviated session slightly higher despite the release of higher-than-expected jobless claims and other economic data. The stock market was closed Thursday in observance of the Christmas holiday.

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