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Wall Street fights to extend two-day rally

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(Reuters) – U.S. stocks flitted between gains and losses on Friday, struggling to extend their rally to a third straight day and cap a week that is on pace to snap a three-week losing streak.

The week started off with Wall Street’s worst-ever Christmas Eve drop, followed by Dow Jones Industrial Average’s .DJI record 1,000-plus point surge on Wednesday and a stunning reversal late on Thursday that ensured two days of gains.

The trend continued on Friday, but the extent of the swings were relatively small, with the S&P 500 rising as much as 0.78 percent before dropping 0.64 percent to a session low.

Supporting the market were the financial .SPSY and consumer discretionary .SPLRCD sectors, up about 0.5 percent each. Technology stocks .SPLRCT, whose index-weight has a heavy influence on the market, see-sawed through the day, and were last up 0.11 percent.

The S&P energy sector .SPNY spent most of the day in the red, last down 0.66 percent as crude oil prices came under pressure from profit-taking. [O/R]

“We’re seeing some big moves today, and I expect the wild ride to continue, like the ones we’ve seen in the last couple of trading days,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

“Since the beginning of October, investors are more defensive. Rather than buying the dip, they are selling the rally. They are looking to take gains when they can,” Nauman added.

Weighing on sentiment was a report that contracts to buy previously owned homes fell unexpectedly in November, the latest sign of weakness in the U.S. housing market.

At 12:51 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 21.64 points, or 0.09 percent, at 23,160.46, while the S&P 500 .SPX was up 4.00 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,492.83. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 18.46 points, or 0.28 percent, at 6,597.96.

While a run of three weeks of losses looked set to end, the three indexes are still down about 9 percent for December and on track for their biggest annual percentage drop since 2008.

Investors head into 2019 with a list of worries ranging from U.S.-China trade tensions, rising interest rates and a cooling economy to a partial U.S. government shutdown that started on Saturday.

Among stocks, Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) jumped 4.86 percent after the electric carmaker named two new independent board directors.

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Dell Technologies Inc DELL.N returned to the stock market nearly six years after founder Michael Dell took the computer maker private. The stock opened at $46 and was last at $44.78.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.63-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.98-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

There were no new 52-week highs or lows on the S&P, while the Nasdaq recorded five new highs and 61 new lows.

Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Sriraj Kalluvila

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