Exchange traded funds tied to the S&P 500 rallied 3% Tuesday as the race for an up year in 2011 appears to be going down to the wire.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) was down 3% year to date as of Monday’s close, according to Morningstar.

If the S&P 500 ends 2011 in negative territory, it would be only the third time in over 80 years that the U.S. stock benchmark lost ground in the third year of the presidential cycle. The other two instances took place during the Great Depression. [Stock ETFs Disappoint on Presidential Cycle]

Tuesday’s rally pulled the S&P 500 ETF above its 50-day and 200-day exponential moving averages, which are virtually identical.

Some traders have been looking for a so-called Santa Claus rally, and trading volumes should trail off as the week progresses. The U.S. stock market will be closed on Monday, Dec. 26, to observe Christmas.

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