U.S. Stock Indexes Edge Higher in Midday Trading; Oil Rises

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

(AP) - Major U.S. stock indexes were headed slightly higher in midday trading Tuesday, led by technology companies. The Dow Jones industrial average edged closer to the 20,000-point mark. Energy stocks also rose as the price of crude oil moved higher.

Trading was quiet as traders returned from the long weekend. Investors weighed new data on consumer confidence and home prices.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow added 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,949 as of 12:36 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,269. The Nasdaq composite index rose 27 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,489.

THE QUOTE: “Markets are moving toward 20,000 and bond yields are up; there’s a little bit of buoyancy in oil prices,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “(But) trading is very, very thin.”

BIG GAINER: Chipmaker Nvidia jumped 5.9 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500. The stock added $6.42 to $116.20.

DRILL THIS: Oil and gas drilling and services companies were trading higher. Transocean gained 64 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $15.38, while Helmerich & Payne added $1.71, or 2.2 percent, to $80.05. National Oilwell Varco rose 59 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $38.97.

RETAILERS RISE: Several retailers were also moving higher. Amazon added $10.74, or 1.4 percent, to $771.33. Gap gained 26 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $22.84, while Tiffany & Co. rose $1.24, or 1.6 percent, to $78.37.

LOOKING FIT: Shares in Fitbit climbed 6.2 percent after the fitness tracker company’s app became the second-most downloaded in the iTunes store. The stock added 45 cents to $7.74.

NEW DRUG: Biogen rose 1.5 percent on news that the Federal Drug Administration approved a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder. The FDA approved the drug, Spinraza, late Friday. Biogen is handling marketing for the drug, which was developed by Ionis Pharmaceuticals. Biogen shares added $4.32 to $291.85. Ionis gained $1.70, or 3.2 percent, to $55.11.

MANUFACTURING FALLOUT: Endologix plunged 20.2 percent after the drugmaker said that the FDA has ordered it to cease shipping a device used to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms because of manufacturing problems. The company said the problem only affects some sizes of its AFX Endovascular AAA system and that no clinical problems have been reported. Endologix shares lost $1.45 to $5.74.

FEELING CONFIDENT: The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index climbed to 113.7 in December, up from 109.4 in November and the highest since it reached 114 in August 2001. The latest reading is another sign consumers are confident in the aftermath of a divisive election campaign.

“This is a pretty … good time to be a consumer, with inflation low, jobs coming back, wages inching higher, and the strong dollar,” Davidson said.

HOME PRICES: An index of U.S. home prices increased in October, as buyers bidding for scarce properties drove home prices higher. The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.1 percent in October from a year earlier after climbing 5 percent in September. The broader Case-Shiller national home price index was up 5.6 percent in October and has fully recovered from the financial crisis.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.2 percent, while the CAC 40 of France was 0.2 percent higher. Markets in Britain are closed for Boxing Day. Earlier in Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was nearly flat. The Kospi of South Korea rose 0.2 percent, while India’s Sensex added 0.8 percent. Markets in Hong Kong and Australia were also closed.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 88 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $53.91 a barrel in New York. Oil markets were closed Monday. On Friday, benchmark U.S. crude gained 7 cents. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 89 cents, or 1.6 percent, at $56.05 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.57 percent from 2.54 percent late Friday. Markets were closed Monday. In currency trading, the dollar rose to 117.53 yen from 117.26. The euro fell to $1.0458 from $1.0452.