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Is a Santa Claus rally coming at last?

It's time to invoke the Santa Claus rally, the old trading adage that says that the stock market performs well during the trading week between Christmas and New Year's. (Market purists say the term should only include the last week of the year, not the recently expanded time horizon that starts with the post-Thanksgiving session through New Year's.)

There have been many explanations for the Santa Claus rally: people are more optimistic during the holidays (suspect), people are investing their Christmas bonuses (what bonuses?), big money managers are doing a little window dressing to ensure that certain stocks appear on their year-end marketing materials (more believable) and my personal favorite, the bears are all in St. Barth's already!

Whether or not ol' St. Nick continues to power stocks into the last week of the year, most investors share a common emotion when it comes to 2011: relief that it will soon be over.

-- DJIA: 12,294, up 3.6% on week, up 6.2% YTD (up 4.5% over the last four trading days) -- S&P 500: 1265, up 3.7% on week, up 0.6% YTD -- NASDAQ: 2618, up 2.5% on week, down 1.3% YTD -- February Crude Oil: $99.68, up 6.3% on week -- February Gold: $ 1606, up 0.6% on week (down 17% since Sep high of $1895, up 12% YTD) -- AAA National Average Price for Gallon of Regular Gas: $3.23 -- Total bank failures for 2011 = 92 (0 new bank failures over weekend)

THE WEEK AHEAD: It will be a light, holiday-shortened week on the economic calendar, highlighted by a report on home prices, and consumer confidence.

Mon 12/26: MARKETS CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS

Tues 12/27:

8:30 S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index

10:00 Consumer Confidence

Weds 12/28:

Thurs 12/29:

8:30 Jobless claims

10:00 Pending Home Sales

Fri 12/30:

9:45 Chicago PMI