US stocks edge higher; pharma stocks strong

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished modestly higher on Friday (Dec 23), with pharmaceutical stocks gaining, but the Dow again fell short of 20,000 points in light trade ahead of the holiday weekend.

The Dow ended at 19,933.81, up 0.1 per cent.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.1 per cent to 2,263.79, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.3 per cent to 5,462.69.

US stocks have stagnated over the last week or so, giving up the momentum from the Republican US election sweep on Nov 8. Analysts suspect the post-election rally may have run its course.

"The market still believes Trump's agenda will have positive effects, but it needs something concrete to go even further," said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Capital Markets.

Pharmaceutical stocks were generally strong, with Allergan winning 2.6 per cent, Biogen 1.6 per cent and Pfizer 0.4 per cent.

Lockheed Martin fell 1.3 per cent after Trump on Twitter called for rival Boeing to offer an estimate for the F-18 jet fighter, a potential alternative to Lockheed's F-35 stealth fighter. Boeing added 0.2 per cent.

Cintas, which makes uniforms for corporate clients, fell 3.1 per cent as it reported much higher expenses in the second quarter compared with the year-ago period.

Markets are closed Monday in observance of the Christmas holiday.