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Wall St edges up ahead of market holiday

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ticked higher on Wednesday as the market's recent upward bias held ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, even as a round of economic data came in below expectations.

Trading was light, with some market participants already out for Thanksgiving. The stock market will be closed on Thursday and will close early on Friday. The thin action could amplify swings, especially with the Dow and S&P having hit a string of records recently.

Market moves have been slight of late, though indexes have trended to the upside. The S&P is up in 13 of the past 16 sessions.

In the latest data, jobless claims unexpectedly rose in the latest week, topping 300,000 for the first time since early September, while new orders for U.S.-made capital goods fell for a second straight month in October.

A barometer of business activity in the U.S. Midwest declined more than expected in November. Consumer sentiment rose to its highest level in more than seven years, but was down slightly from a preliminary reading.

"This isn't enough to derail the rally we've been on, because while markets are fairly valued, when you consider the alternatives equities are still the best asset," said Matthew Keator, partner in the Keator Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The PHLX Housing index fell 0.9 percent after data showed pending home sales unexpectedly fell in October, though new home sales were higher. Homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc fell 1.1 percent to $25.18.

Deere & Co fell 1.3 percent to $86.66 after the farm equipment company forecast a drop in equipment sales in the current quarter, hurt by lower corn prices and falling farm incomes.

Hewlett-Packard Co rose 3.8 percent to $39.07 as one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers a day after it reported its fourth-quarter results.

At 12:19 p.m. (1719 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 4.98 points, or 0.03 percent, to 17,809.96, the S&P 500 gained 2.39 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,069.42 and the Nasdaq Composite added 16.49 points, or 0.35 percent, to 4,774.74.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,645 to 1,319, for a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,451 issues rose and 1,137 fell for a 1.28-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 49 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 82 new highs and 28 new lows.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman)