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DOW CLOSES WITH 19-POINT GAIN IN LIGHT TRADE

Stocks posted slim gains today as only a skeleton crew showed up for a shortened post-Christmas session that generated the lightest volume of the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average pulled back from an early 57-point bounce, but ended with a gain of 19.18 to 7,679.31, enough to push the year's gain back above 19 percent. For the week, the Dow lost 79.98.

Broad-market indexes also retreated from some larger gains earlier in the day. Trading ended at 1 p.m., as it had on Wednesday.

Merck and IBM led the Dow's advance as the only two components in the blue-chip barometer with a move of at least 1 point. Similarly, Microsoft and Cisco Systems were the only leading Nasdaq technology names with a noteworthy gain.

Analysts said few investors were willing to make any big bets with trading shortened for the holidays and so many players taking an extended weekend.

Traders encountered mixed signals from overseas, where South Korean shares posted a 7.2 percent rebound, but Japanese stocks slid 3.3 percent.

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