US stocks closing: Stocks finished modestly higher on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 up for a fourth session, although volume was one of the year's lowest on the day ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Investors welcomed news that a ceasefire was declared to end the flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians, though the lack of a deal to release emergency aid for Greece limited the market's advance.
Investors also remained anxious about the mandatory tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect in the new year if a deal is not reached to prevent it - known as the "fiscal cliff" - though policymakers are not expected to get back to negotiations until after Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.
About 4.76 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with year-to-date daily average volume of 6.5 billion shares. On Thursday, the U.S. stock market will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, and on Friday, it will close early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT).
"Usually on patriotic holidays, which I think Thanksgiving is one, we often see a rally on a light volume. So I wouldn't be surprised if we see that on Friday, if there is no major news," said J.J. Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.
"So far this week, we have heard good news in terms of (the) fiscal cliff. Both sides seem to be playing nice, but we will start to see big day-to-day swings (in the market) from next week, when we get more details."
Greece's international lenders failed again to reach a deal to release emergency aid to the debt-saddled country. Lenders will try again next Monday, but Germany signaled that significant divisions remain.
A truce between Israel and Hamas gave stocks some support around midday after Egypt announced a ceasefire would come into effect later in the day.
Fears that the fiscal cliff discussions in Washington could be drawn out or yield no resolution have been at the forefront of investors' minds in recent weeks. Combined with concerns about the euro zone's continued debt problems, the worries had driven