NEW YORK, Dec. 24 -- The U.S. stocks ended narrowly mixed on Thursday in very quiet trading as investors were reluctant to make big changes to their portfolios before Christmas.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 14.00 points, or 0.12 percent, to 11,573.49, the Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 2.07 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,256.77, and the Nasdaq slipped 5.88 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,665.60.
However, both the Dow and the S&P 500 rose for the fourth straight week and the tech-heavy Nasdaq achieved its fifth weekly gain, as more upbeat economic data reinforced views that the economy was recovering at a more rapid pace.
The U.S. Labor Department reported early on Thursday that the number of people filing for unemployment benefits dipped 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 420,000 in the week ended Dec. 18, while the previous number was revised up and the four-week average of initial claims rebounded from the lowest level since August 2008.
Meanwhile, a report from the Commerce Department showed that consumer spending rose for a fifth straight month in November and incomes rose slightly more than expected, the latest evidence that the economy was gaining steam.
Orders for durable goods fell 1.3 percent in November, while analysts were expecting a more moderate decline. However, excluding the volatile transportation sector, new orders rose 2.4 percent, according to the Commerce Department.
The Commerce Department also reported that sales of new homes rose 5.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 290,000 units.
More encouragingly, confidence among consumers rose in December to its highest level since June as the economy was showing more solid signs of recovery. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 74.5, up from 71.6 in November.
Commodities also got a boost from upbeat economic data and positive demand prospects.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose 1.03 dollars to 91.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In London, Brent crude for February delivery climbed 60 cents to 94.25 dollars a barrel.