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Wall Street poised to close big year with a yawn

Investors are expected to spend the last week of 2006 getting their portfolios in order, taking advantage of a slow period on Wall Street where volume plunges to its lowest levels of the year.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks edged higher in light trading Tuesday as a rise in oil prices helped lift energy stocks, and helped offset a lackluster report on holiday retail sales.

Crude prices rose after the Iranian government said it will continue its nuclear research despite threats the United Nations would impose sanctions on the country. A barrel of light sweet crude rose 22 cents to $62.63 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

This pushed shares of major oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. higher in the first hour of trading.

Retailers were also influencing major stock indexes. An early projection of holiday spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas showed a disappointing 6.6 percent rise over last year, according to MasterCard. Sales during the samer period last year climbed 8.7 percent.

Volume is expected to be light as many investors remain on vacation. European stock markets remain closed for extended Christmas holidays, while stock prices in Tokyo hit a seven-month high.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.70, or 0.20 percent, to 2,405.88.

Broader stock indicators were also higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 2.75, or 0.19 percent, to 1,413.51, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 4.48, or 0.19 percent, at 2,405.66.