Stocks Trade Flat in Light Volume Ahead of Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks weren't making big moves on Wednesday with volume light as investors clocked out early for the Thanksgiving holiday. But the economic calendar was stuffed heading into the holiday period, with data ranging from jobs numbers to consumer spending.

New home sales climbed 0.7% in October to a 458,000 annualized rate, lower than an estimated 470,000. Pending home sales for October were down 1.1% from September, compared to an expected 0.6% increase.

The Labor Department said jobless claims for the week ended Nov. 22 were 313,000, above 300,000 for the first time since September and higher than economists' estimates of 288,000. "Although it would take several weeks to confirm that the labor market has started to stall, the rise in the claimant count to 313,000 tends to corroborate the dim view offered by the earlier-in-the-week Conference Board confidence reading," said Interactive Brokers' Andrew Wilkinson in a note. 

However, in a sign that the labor market continues to tighten, the less-volatile four-week moving average gauge remained below 300,000 for its 11th consecutive week.

Personal income in October gained 0.2% compared to a 0.2% increase a month earlier, while consumer spending climbed 0.2% compared to a flat reading in September. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected consumer spending to have increased 0.3% with personal income up 0.4%.

Chicago PMI slipped to a reading of 60.8 in November from a 12-month high of 66.2 in October. Analysts had expected a reading of 63.2. Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index fell slightly to 88.8 from 89.4 in mid-November. Analysts had expected a reading of 90.

The outlier among the data was durable goods which surprised Wall Street with orders placed with domestic manufacturers in October climbing 0.4%. Analysts expected a slight decline of around 0.5%. The measure has proven volatile in recent months, slipping 1.1% in September after tumbling 18.3% in August and spiking 22.6% in July.

U.S. stocks were little changed. The S&P 500 was up 0.06%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.02% and the Nasdaq added 0.28%.

European markets were higher after Vitor Constancio, European Central Bank vice president, said the ECB will be able to determine whether to begin buying sovereign bonds by the first quarter of 2015. Last week, the bank said it had initiated the purchase of bonds and asset-backed securities to stimulate growth in the region.

Oil prices were in focus as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries arrives for a meeting in Vienna to determine whether to restrain oil production for the first time since December 2008. West Texas Intermediate crude tanked 2.5% to fall below $74 a barrel on Tuesday as individual talks between Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Mexico failed to produce a solution.

Deere (DE) shares were down more than 1% after quarterly revenue fell 5% to $8.97 billion. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)  climbed 3% even as fourth-quarter sales marked their 12th decline in the last 13 quarters.

China-based travel site Ctrip.com (CTRP) tanked 10.4% after management gave forecasts for 30% growth in the fourth quarter, below consensus of 32.5%.

Analog Devices (ADI) added 4%. The company provided first-quarter earnings guidance as high as 64 cents a share, 2 cents above analysts' forecasts.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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