Stocks Trade With Gains

A drop in jobless claims provides a boost on the final trading day of 2008.
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Stocks in New York opened their final session of a traumatic market year on a mixed note Wednesday, as weekly jobless claims data came in significantly below expectations.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 31 points at 8700, and the

S&P 500

was gaining 2.2 points at 892. The

Nasdaq

was up 8 points at 1558.

The number of people seeking

unemployment benefits

fell to 492,000 from 586,000 a week prior and well below economists' expectation for 575,000. However, "seasonal factor volatility" played a part according to the Department of Labor.

"Until there's more clarity, I would not yet put jobless claims on a list of figures suggesting the worst has thus far been seen. It is a list that remains nearly empty," writes Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist for Miller Tabak, on his

Real Money blog

.

The number of people continuing to draw claims, however, climbed to 4.5 million, the highest since 1982.

Meanwhile, disgraced investor

Bernard Madoff

is scheduled to submit a list of his personal assets to the

Securities and Exchange Commission

on Wednesday, including property that could be tapped to make restitution to victims of his $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Stocks in New York ended higher Tuesday after investors shrugged off the release of the worst consumer confidence figures on record and prepared to close the book on a historic year.

Fitting in one last bailout in 2008, the Treasury Department said Tuesday it will provide $5 billion to

GMAC Financial Services

, GM's auto and mortgage financing arm, in return for preferred shares that pay an 8% dividend and warrants to purchase additional shares.

In commodities, oil was recently down 93 cents at $38.10 a barrel, while gold gave up $7.70 to $862.30 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were recently falling. The 10-year note was giving up 13/32 to yield 2.1%, and the 30-year was down 22/32, yielding 2.6%. The dollar was stronger against the euro and the yen, and weaker against the pound.

Overseas, the FTSE in London was edging higher, and the Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with gains.

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