Stocks close higher; S&P turns positive for 2011

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Stocks are closing higher after a quiet, pre-holiday session that left the S&P 500 positive for the year.

Traders were relieved Friday by news that Congress had extended a payroll tax holiday for workers and emergency unemployment benefits. The programs were set to expire at the end of the year. Economists say letting that happen would have reduced economic growth by about 1 percent.

The S&P 500 closed up 11 points, or 0.9 percent, at 1,265. It started the year at 1,257.

The Dow finished up 124 points, or 1 percent, at 12,294. The Nasdaq closed up 19, or 0.7 percent, at 2,619.

Two shares rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was about half of the recent average, 2.2 billion shares.