NEW YORK — Stocks are ticking upward in afternoon trading, making small gains for the second day in a row ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.
DRIFTING HIGHER: The Dow Jones industrial average added 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,842 as of 12:42 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,092. The Nasdaq composite index gained 19 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,121. U.S. markets will be closed on Thursday. They will reopen on an abbreviated schedule on Friday, with trading closing at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
PLOWING ALONG: Agricultural equipment maker Deere dealt with plunging sales of tractors, bulldozers and other equipment by slashing costs. The company's fiscal fourth-quarter results and its projections for the current fiscal year were better than analysts expected. Deere rose $2.99, or 3.9 percent, to $79.33.
HP DIVERGES: Hewlett-Packard reported earnings for the final time Tuesday night, weeks after the tech giant formally split into two separate companies. The outcomes for the two stocks were starkly different.
HP, which inherited the parent company's PC, printer and commercial software business, sank $1.90, or 13 percent, to $12.74 as its sales weakened. HP Enterprise gained 32 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $14.01. Sales of hardware for data centers, including servers and networking devices, improved.
THE ECONOMY: Consumer spending inched up 0.1 percent in October, the second small gain in a row. Despite weak spending in September and October, economists think spending will keep growing because the labor market is strong. Applications for unemployment aid fell last week, although the more stable four-week average was unchanged.
Spending on long-lasting manufactured goods improved in October after two months of declines. A measure of business investment improved by the biggest amount since July.
THE QUOTE: Brad Sorensen, director of market and sector research for Charles Schwab, said there were no big surprises in the economic reports. Most were a bit better than expected, and wages and compensation for workers appear to be rising.
"Both of those things play into the Fed being comfortable raising interest rates next month," he said.
Sorensen said he thinks tech stocks will do well over the next few months as consumers continue to spend on electronics and businesses invest more in technology. He also thinks financial stocks, particularly large banks and regional banks, will score bigger profits because they'll be able to charge more money for loans.
HORMEL SPLIT: Spam maker Hormel said it is planning a stock split that would double the number of shares on the market, reducing their price and potentially increasing demand. The move would take effect in February, assuming shareholders approve.
Hormel rose $1.86, or 2.5 percent, to $73.18. The stock gained 3 percent Tuesday after the company reported a strong fourth quarter and outlook, and it's been trading at all-time highs.
ENERGY: The price of U.S. crude oil fell 23 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $42.64 a barrel in New York. Brent crude fell 35 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $45.77 a barrel in London. Energy stocks traded slightly lower.
The U.S. government said crude oil stockpiles rose by 1 million barrels last week. Analysts had expected a small decline. Inventories stood at 488.2 million barrels on Friday, their highest level at this time of year in at least 80 years.
PFIZER RECOVERS: Drugmaker Pfizer picked up $1.11, or 3.5 percent, to $33.08. Pfizer agreed to buy competitor Allergan on Monday for about $155 billion, one of the largest corporate deals ever. Shares of Pfizer had fallen 10 percent since the companies announced they were in talks about a combination. Allergan shares rose $8.46, or 2.7 percent, to$319.89.
BONDS, CURRENCIES: The yield on the 10-year Treasury inched down to 2.23 percent from 2.24 percent. The euro fell to $1.0631 from $1.0655 on Tuesday. The dollar rose to 122.68 yen from 122.44 yen.