US STOCKS-Wall St stays upbeat heading into holiday

* Retailers buoyed by Bed Bath & Beyond, Jo-Ann Stores

* Economic data mostly in line with expectations

* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.3 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to midday, changes byline)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Investors managed to keep an
upbeat outlook in light preholiday trade on Thursday as data
buttressed views of steady economic growth, with stocks on
track for a fourth straight week of gains.

New home sales and prices edged up in November, while
consumer sentiment rose in December to its highest level since
June, reports showed.

Banking shares lagged as investors booked profits after a
month-long rally that had sparked a nearly 17 percent rise in
the KBW Bank index (.BKX: ).

The index shed 0.8 percent on Thursday, as Bank of America
Corp (BAC.N: ) lost 1.9 percent to $13.12 and JPMorgan Chase & Co
(JPM.N: ) fell 0.4 percent to $42.01.

“The economic data still points to a slow and measured
recovery in 2011, whether it is housing, jobs or manufacturing.
The U.S. is in the midst of a slow recovery here,” said Cort
Gwon, director of trading strategies and research at FBN
Securities in New York.

“It keeps up hopes, with the added liquidity from the
government in 2011, it points to a solid market next year.”
President Barack Obama recently signed a measure to extend tax
cuts and extend unemployment benefits — considered another
stimulus package.

In line with that outlook, the latest American Association
of Individual Investors’ survey found bullish sentiment rose
13.1 percentage points to 63.3 percent, as of Dec. 23, a
six-year high.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 8.67 points,
or 0.08 percent, to 11,568.16. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index
(.SPX: ) dropped 1.79 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,257.05. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) shed 6.67 points, or 0.25
percent, to 2,664.81.

The S&P 500 rose Wednesday to its highest level since the
collapse of Lehman Brothers more than two years ago.

Volume was light Thursday as Wall Street takes a break
Friday for the Christmas holiday.

Retail stocks got a boost as Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O: )
rose 5.7 percent to $50.39 after topping profit estimates and
forecasting a strong holiday season. [ID:nN2287296]

Fabric and crafts retailer Jo-Ann Stores Inc (JAS.N: ) jumped
32 percent to $60.25 after it agreed to a buyout by private
equity firm Leonard Green & Partners for $61 per share.

The Morgan Stanley Retail index (.MVR: ) gained 0.5 percent.

Top U.S. memory chip maker Micron Technology Inc (MU.O: )
weighed on the Nasdaq. Its shares slipped 3.3 percent to $8 one
day after it forecast lower pricing for NAND chips, which are
used in smartphones and tablet computers. [ID:nN22114698]

Motorola Inc (MOT.N: ) spinoff Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc
will replace Meredith Corp (MDP.N: ) in the S&P 500 index after
the close on Jan. 3, Standard & Poor’s said. Meredith shares
dipped 1.2 percent to $35.39.

In other data, jobless claims dipped but indicated that
unemployment will stay high, consumer spending rose for a fifth
month, and durable goods orders recorded their biggest increase
since March. For details, see [ID:nN23135079]
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

US STOCKS-Wall St stays upbeat heading into holiday