Stocks were slightly higher in a quieter day of trading before the Christmas holidays at the end of the week. The number of shares traded on the S&P 500 by midday was a fraction of its total daily average. Existing home sales fell at a faster than expected rate in November as homebuyers faced tighter regulations and less supply. The latest read showed sales of homes at their slowest pace in 19 months. Starbucks (SBUX) said it expects to receive a record number of gift card purchases this Christmas Eve. The coffee chain said nearly 2.5 million gift cards were bought in North America on Christmas Eve last year, equal to 1,700 a minute. Ford (F) shares moved higher on reports the automaker is in talks with Alphabet's Google (GOOGL) to develop self-driving vehicles. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff has details from New York.