NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were enjoying slight gains in a holiday-shortened Christmas Eve session Wednesday after bouncing to record highs a day earlier.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 18,000 for the first time and the S&P 500 scored a new record high on Tuesday after third-quarter GDP was revised upwards to 5%, its fastest pace in 11 years.
The S&P 500 added 0.19% on Wednesday, the Dow gained 0.27% and the Nasdaq climbed 0.42%. Over the past five days, the S&P 500 has jumped more than 5% to new highs, a rally fueled by the Federal Reserve's promise to be "patient" in raising rates next year.
Weekly jobless claims slid for the fourth straight week, an indication of the steady improvement in the job market. The number of new claims for unemployment benefits slid 9,000 to 280,000. Economists had expected 290,000 claims after a reading of 289,000 a week earlier.
Crude oil prices were giving back some of Tuesday's gains. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 2.6% to $55.65, while major oilers Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) were lower and the Energy Select SPDR ETF (XLE) dropped 1.6%. Crude prices had seen a brief rebound on Tuesday after Arab OPEC producers said they expect global oil to rebound to between $70 and $80 a barrel by end-2015.
Japan's parliament re-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday after his win at the polls earlier December. Abe has been charged with restoring growth in the world's second-largest economy through monetary policy easing and stimulus. Tokyo's Nikkei bounced 1.2%.
More troubles for Russia's economy after Standard & Poor's placed it on its CreditWatch Negative list. Russia's ruble has been in freefall alongside oil prices and the economy has suffered from Western sanctions imposed after the country's involvement in Ukraine.
"We are reviewing our assessment of Russia's monetary flexibility and the impact of the weakening economy on its financial system," the agency said in a statement. Standard & Poor's will determine whether the nation's debt is downgraded to junk status completes its review by mid-January.
Citigroup (C) shares inched 0.68% higher on news Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. will buy the bank's regional retail operations for around $330 million, according to Reuters.
American Airlines (AAL) climbed more than 2% after the company said it plans to increase flight attendants' wages 4 percentage points due to increased profits on lower oil prices.
Sony (SNE) shares were climbing 2.3% on expectations the company will announce its digital distribution plans for 'The Interview' on Wednesday. A day earlier, the studio confirmed plans to distribute to more than 200 independent theaters Christmas Day.
Walgreen (WAG) shares were gaining more than 1% after Credit Suisse increased its price target to $73 based on the company's long-term growth opportunities.
The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will close at 1pm EST on Wednesday ahead of the Christmas Day public holiday and will resume normal operations on Friday.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.