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Shares rise in thin post-holiday trade; oil, natural gas slip

By Sam Forgione

Reuters

4:44 PM EST, December 26, 2014

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U.S. stocks pushed higher on Friday, with the Dow and S&P 500 both closing at record highs, while oil and natural gas fell on worries of a supply glut and on mild U.S. weather.

The three major U.S. stock indexes notched their second straight weekly advance. Eight of the S&P 500's 10 primary sectors ended higher, and no sector ended more than 0.1 percent lower. Trading was light, however.

Europe, Canada, Latin America and a number of Asian markets were closed for a holiday the day after Christmas.

"This modest growth, modest inflation environment that we've been in looks to me like it's going to continue, and that's positive for stocks," said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis.

Oil prices slipped, pressured by a supply glut in top consumer the United States. A Department of Energy report on Wednesday showed crude inventories in the latest week rose to their highest December level on record.

U.S. natural gas futures hit a more than two-year bottom below $3 after the worst week since February as disappointing weekly draws of the fuel raised worries about growing gas in storage.

NYMEX's front-month gas hit a September 2012 low of $2.9783 per million British thermal units before settling at $3.007, about half a percent below the close on Wednesday. The contract had traded as high as $4.53 per mmBtu on Nov. 26 due to colder weather then across the United States before collapsing as temperatures turned higher.

Brent crude settled down 79 cents at $59.45 a barrel. U.S. crude settled down $1.11 at $54.73 a barrel. Spot gold prices were up $21.09 at $1,194.39 an ounce.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.13 percent at 18,053.71. The S&P 500 closed up 0.33 percent at 2,088.77. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.7 percent at 4,806.86.

The S&P posted its 52nd record close of the year, the most since 1995, and the Dow notched its seventh straight daily gain, its longest streak since March 2013.

MSCI's all-country world index was last up 0.22 percent at 421.33, boosted by the gains in U.S. shares.

In Japan, one of the few major markets open on Friday, the Nikkei benchmark stock index closed up 0.1 percent in quiet trade.

European, Hong Kong, Australian, Canadian and Latin American stock markets were all closed for the day.

The U.S. dollar climbed to near a 7-1/2-year peak against the yen and close to a 2-1/2-year high versus the euro on the view that the U.S. economy is expanding enough for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates in mid-2015.

The greenback hovered at nearly nine-year highs against a basket of major currencies; the dollar index was last up or 0.06 percent at 90.022

U.S. Treasury prices recovered slightly from an early week selloff in light trading. Benchmark 10-year yields, which move inversely to prices, were last at 2.25 percent, from 2.26 percent late Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica, Jessica Resnick-Ault, Richard Leong, and Barani Krishnan in New York, and Thomas Wilson in Tokyo; Editing by Leslie Adler)