Stocks edge higher; S&P turns positive for 2011

December 23, 2011 - 12:51 PM
Wall Street

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, specialist Jennifer Klesaris and trader Gregory Rowe work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Global stocks advanced Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, on further signs the U.S. economy is improving, but trading activity was muted as the traditional holiday slowdown began in earnest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Stocks are rising in quiet, pre-holiday trading. The S&P 500 index turned positive for the year.

Traders were relieved Friday by news that Congress had extended a payroll tax holiday for workers and emergency unemployment benefits. The programs were set to expire at the end of the year. Letting that happen would have reduced economic growth by about 1 percent, economists say.

Stocks gained steadily this week on hopeful signals about the U.S. economy and job market. A series of mixed reports about spending and investment Friday failed to derail that optimism.

The Dow is up 78 points, or 0.6 percent, at 12,247 shortly before noon Eastern time. The S&P 500 is up 8, or 0.6 percent, at 1,261. The Nasdaq is up 10, or 0.4 percent, at 2,609.