Wall St trades higher ahead of Thanksgiving

US stocks finished modestly higher yesterday, with the S&P 500 up for a fourth session although trading volume was one of the year’s lowest on the day ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Investors welcomed news that a ceasefire was declared to end the flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians, though the lack of a deal to release emergency aid for Greece limited the market’s advance.

Investors also remained anxious about the mandatory tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect in the new year if a deal is not reached to prevent it – known as the “fiscal cliff” – though policymakers are not expected to get back to negotiations until after Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

About 4.6bn shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with year-to-date daily average volume of 6.5 billion shares. Today the US stock market will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, and on Friday, it will close early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT).

Fears that the fiscal cliff discussions in Washington could be drawn out or yield no resolution have been at the forefront of investors' minds in recent weeks. Combined with concerns about the Eurozone’s continued debt problems, the worries had driven a sell-off that has taken more than 5 percent off the S&P 500 since Election Day in early November.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 48.38 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 12,836.89 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 3.22 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 1,391.03. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 9.87 points, or 0.34 per cent, to close at 2,926.55.