U.S. Stocks Inch Higher In Slow End-of-the-Year Trading

NEW YORK (AP) -

Wall Street traders sometimes root for a rally towards the end of December, but on Friday stocks finished slightly higher on the quietest full day of trading in more than a year. Health care companies brought in most of the gains.

Major U.S. indexes stayed in a narrow range throughout the day. Drugmakers and other companies in health care did the best, while retailers continued to take small losses. Energy companies also slipped, and they took their first weekly loss since the beginning of November. The Dow Jones industrial average, however, rose for the seventh week in a row.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin fell after President-elect Donald Trump again tweeted that the company’s F-35 fighter jet costs too much. The stock is down almost 6 percent this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 14.93 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,933.81. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 2.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,263.79. The Nasdaq composite rose 15.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,462.69.

Small-company stocks did far better, as the Russell 2000 climbed 8.85 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,371.51.

Fewer than 2 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange. That’s barely half the volume of an average day. The last full trading day with that little activity was in October 2015.

So far, investor optimism that Trump’s spending plans could boost economic growth is outweighing any concerns about his trade proposals, brash style and Twitter pronouncements, which have moved company stocks at times. That may change when he’s in office and can more easily back up his comments with executive actions and policy shifts.

Drug companies made small gains on Friday. Allergan rose $5.09, or 2.6 percent, to $199.08. Bristol-Myers Squibb picked up 85 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $59.61 and health insurer Aetna added $1.26, or 1 percent, to $125.95.

Cintas, a uniform rental company, slipped after its second-quarter profit fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. Analysts said its first-aid business, which sells products like first-aid kits, eyewash stations and emergency cabinets, had a disappointing quarter. The stock lost $3.73, or 3.1 percent, to $116.36.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 7 cents to close at $53.02 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 11 cents to close at $55.16 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, natural gas prices continued to climb as investors anticipated that colder weather will lead to more demand for home heating. Natural gas futures rose 12 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $3.66 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon and heating oil stood still at $2.48 a gallon.

The dollar slid to 117.26 yen from 117.60 yen. The euro rose to $1.0452 from $1.0433.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.54 percent from 2.55 percent.

The price of gold rose $2.90 to $1,133.60 an ounce. Silver lost 11 cents to $15.76 an ounce. Copper gave up 2 cents to $2.48 a pound.

Britain’s FTSE 100 and the CAC-40 in France both rose 0.1 percent. In Germany, the DAX lost 0.1 percent. The Hang Seng of Hong Kong retreated 0.3 percent and the Kospi in South Korea finished slightly lower. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.