* Consumer confidence index tops expectations
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
By Curtis Skinner
NEW YORK (Frankfurt: HX6.F - news) , Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced modestly on Tuesday, boosted by a solid consumer confidence reading, keeping the S&P 500 on track for its best year since 1997 and the Dow on pace to record its best performance since 1995.
The S&P 500 is up 29.5 percent for the year and all 10 sector indexes will end the year in positive territory. The Dow is up 26.3 percent in 2013, as investors rode the Federal Reserve's extraordinary stimulus and the expectations for improved growth in a year that had only the slightest of hiccups.
The Fed recently announced it will trim its monthly bond purchases in response to an improving economic picture, but that has still not deterred equities.
The Nasdaq is up 38.1 percent for the year, setting the technology-heavy index up for its best yearly performance since 2009.
Trading volume was once again light with U.S. markets closed Wednesday for the New Year's holiday. With many traders away, the thin volume could make for greater volatility.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 from an upwardly revised 72.0 in November and above the expected 76.0 reading.
"The market was kind of flat until the pieces of economic data came out, none of which were particularly exceptional, but it seemed to drive more buying," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
Data earlier in the day showed that the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.2 percent in October from September, but posted the strongest annualized gain in October in more than seven years.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 49.36 points or 0.30 percent, to 16,553.65. The S&P 500 gained 5.27 points or 0.29 percent, to 1,846.34. The Nasdaq Composite added 17.09 points or 0.41 percent, to 4,171.29.
For the month, the Dow is up 2.9 percent, the S&P 500 has gained 2.2 percent and the Nasdaq has risen 2.7 percent.
Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR - news) appeared to turn the corner on its steep two-day losing streak, posting gains of 6.7 percent to $64.58 at midday. The stock's price had tumbled 17 percent between Thursday and Monday.
Marvell Technology Group Ltd jumped 5.6 percent to $14.54 after private equity firm KKR & Co LLP reported a 6.8 percent stake in the chipmaker, according to a regulatory filing.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc struck a deal for around $1.4 billion of stock to buy a Phillips 66 business that makes chemicals to improve the flow potential of pipelines. Phillips 66 shares shot up 2.9 percent to $76.90, off a 52-week high of $77.19.
Hertz Global Holdings Inc surged 7.7 percent to $27.91 after the company said it had adopted a one-year shareholder rights plan in response to "unusual and substantial activity" it has observed in its shares. Hertz was among the most actively traded New York Stock Exchange-listed companies by midday.
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