Stocks extend advance in year’s final session (AP)

A tourist reads a historical marker outside the New York Stock Exchange, decorated for the holidays, shortly after the exchange opened for business on the last day of the year in New York, December 31, 2008. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)AP – Wall Street headed toward a merciful end to a dreadful year Wednesday as investors took some comfort from a sharp drop in weekly unemployment claims and focused on the prospects for 2009.

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