Wall Street held on to modest gains today even as oil prices extended their record-breaking run and after retailers issued sales reports...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street held on to modest gains today even as oil prices extended their record-breaking run and after retailers issued sales reports that were generally not as gloomy as anticipated.

The Dow gained 52.43 points to end at 12,866.78.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 5.11 points to 1,397.68 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 12.75 points to 2,451.24.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 6 cents to end at $29.27. Boeing, another Dow stock, gained 21 cents to close at $84.76.

The retailers’ sales data still suggested, however, that high energy costs are leading consumers to alter their spending. Wal-Mart Stores said sales of groceries, flat-screen TVs and medications helped boost sales last month, but some apparel stores — whose merchandise falls into the category of discretionary items — again saw depressed sales as consumers budgeted more for gasoline and food.

Mixed economic readings and lofty energy prices could keep the market in a holding pattern through the summer, said Janna Sampson, director of portfolio management at Oakbrook Investments. “With oil high and continuing to go up, it’s going to be tough to get the market to have a sustainable rally.” Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities, was a bit more optimistic, saying he estimates the economy is four months away from the end of an average-length recession, so the stock market should resume its climb again soon.

“Basically, the market is taking a timeout after the prior six weeks,” Goldman said. “The bigger picture is a market that’s in the process of transitioning from a bear to a bull, shifting from a situation where the glass is half-empty to one where the glass is half-full. And that takes time.”

In a positive sign for the U.S. job market, which has seen four straight months of jobs losses, the Labor Department said today that the number of newly laid off workers seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 18,000 last week to 365,000 — a larger decline than expected.