U.S. Stocks Close Higher as Nasdaq Hits Record High, Oil Rises

NEW YORK (AP) -

A day of quiet trading on Wall Street ended Tuesday with the Dow Jones industrial average inching closer to 20,000 and a record high for the Nasdaq composite.

Materials and technology companies led U.S. stocks slightly higher overall. Energy companies also rose as the price of crude oil moved higher. Utilities and phone company stocks edged lower.

Trading was light following the long weekend, with less than 1.9 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That’s the lightest full day of trading since October 2015.

“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.”

The Dow added 11.23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,945.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 5.09 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,268.88. The Nasdaq rose 24.75 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,487.44. The tech-heavy index’s previous record high was 5,483 on Dec. 20.

The three major indexes are on pace for solid gains for 2016, led by the Dow, which is up 14.5 percent. The S&P 500 is on track for an 11 percent gain, while the Nasdaq is headed for a 9.6 percent gain. Small-company stocks are up even more. The Russell 2000 is up 21 percent so far this year.

While little new major economic or company data is expected this week as 2016 winds to a close, investors did get some fresh figures on consumer confidence and home prices on Tuesday.

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.

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index rose 5.6 percent in October, as buyers bidding for scarce properties drove home prices higher.

Several homebuilders posted gains following the reports on home prices and consumer confidence, which bode well for home sales. Lennar led the pack, gaining 80 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $43.36. D.R. Horton added 37 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $27.93. PulteGroup rose 24 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $18.62.

Nvidia posted the biggest gain in the S&P 500 index. The chipmaker surged $7.54, or 6.9 percent, to $117.32.

Traders also gave a boost to other technology stocks, including Fitbit. The company climbed 7.4 percent after the fitness tracker’s app became the second-most downloaded in the iTunes store. The stock added 54 cents to $7.83.

Some drug companies also made big moves.

Endologix plunged 26.7 percent after the drugmaker said that the Food and Drug Administration 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 $1.92 to $5.27.

Biogen rose 1.2 percent on news that the FDA 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 $3.59 to $291.12. Ionis gained $1.71, or 3.2 percent, to $55.12.

Several markets overseas closed slightly higher.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 0.2 percent, while the CAC 40 of France closed 0.2 percent higher. Markets in Britain were 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.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 88 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $53.90 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $56.09 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, natural gas futures rose 10 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $3.76 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.65 a gallon and heating oil gained 4 cents to $1.70 a gallon.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.56 percent from 2.54 percent late Friday. Markets were closed on Monday.

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 117.45 yen from 117.26. The euro fell to $1.0458 from $1.0452.

Among metals, the price of gold rose $5.20 to $1,138.80 an ounce. Silver added 23 cents to $15.99 an ounce. Copper gained 4 cents to $2.52 a pound.