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Stocks Finish Higher as Banks, Tech Lead
CNBC.com | December 22, 2011 | 04:03 PM EST

Stocks pushed into the close to finish around their highest levels for the second day in a row, as banks surged and Wall Street shrugged off fears of a global economic slowdown.

Financials, energy and technology — the market's principal weak spot recently — led gainers, while commodities, particularly mining-related stocks, showed weakness. Consumer staples was the worst of the 10 Standard & Poor's 500 sectors during a day in which the market traded in a tight range throughout the session.

The government said economic growthhad slowed to 1.8 percent in the third quarter, primarily because consumers had pulled back. Economic data showing a surprising drop in weekly jobless claims to their lowest level in three and a half years still left the market wary. A batch of other economic data showing rising consumer confidence, a decline in leading indicators and a drop in housing prices failed to move the markets.

Traders closely watched technical levels to see if the S&P could break its 200-day moving average and get a sustained Santa Claus rally going into the end of the year.

"Any real break above 1260 will send the average to 1300 relatively quickly and with the 'feel good' tone it would not be surprising to see" a holiday rally, said Ken Polcari of LandColt Trading. "Keep in mind that low volumes will create more volatility and the market can turn on a dime."

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