Holiday spirits help Wall Street edge upwards

US stocks ended slightly higher in a volatile half-day session yesterday as traders squared positions before today’s holiday and tomorrow’s job market data.

The three major US stock indexes seesawed on thin trading volume, with some market participants already away before today’s Independence Day holiday. The US stock market closed at 1pm, or 5pm London time, yesterday. It will reopen tomorrow for a full session.

Mixed US data yesterday failed to give the market solid direction.

Private-sector employers stepped up hiring in June and weekly jobless claims fell, but the growth rate in the services sector slowed in June and the US trade deficit widened on a drop in exports.

About 3.37bn shares exchanged hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE. The full trading-day average volume has been about 6.4bn so far this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56.14 points or 0.38 per cent, to end at 14,988.55. The S&P 500 gained 1.33 points or 0.08 per cent, to finish at 1,615.41. The Nasdaq Composite added 10.27 points or 0.30 per cent, to close at 3,443.67.

The S&P 500 is down 3.2 per cent from its May 21 record closing high of 1,669.16. The benchmark index has been unable to close above its 50-day moving average since June 20.

US crude oil prices rose 1.6 per cent to $101.18 a barrel after hitting a 14-month high above $102 a barrel on a sharp decline in crude stockpiles in the United States and political unrest in Egypt. The S&P energy sector index ended flat.