U.S. Stocks Ring in 2017 with Gains as Health-Care Stocks Rise

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

U.S. stocks are moving higher on the first trading day of 2017 and are on track to break a three-day losing streak. Health care companies, which fell last year as the rest of the market moved higher, are making some of the biggest gains. While stock indexes are broadly higher, they’ve surrendered most of an earlier gain.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,793 as of 1:35 p.m. Eastern time. The blue-chip index rose as much as 175 points in the first hour of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,248. The Nasdaq composite picked up 22 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,407. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks small-company stocks, remained at 1,357. The Russell rose almost 20 percent last year and did far better than indexes focused on larger companies.

The Dow lagged behind the S&P 500 and Nasdaq in part because of losses for McDonald’s and Travelers, the insurance company.

ON THE MEND: Health-care stocks made some of the biggest gains. Merck & Co. rose $1.44, or 2.4 percent, to $60.31, and biotech giant Amgen picked up $4.75, or 3.2 percent, to $150.96. Prescription drug distributor McKesson gained $7.05, or 5 percent, to $147.50. The S&P 500’s health care index fell 4 percent last year. It was the only S&P 500 sector that traded lower as the S&P 500 itself rose 9.5 percent for the year.

COPY THAT: Xerox surged $1, or 17.4 percent, to $6.75 after it split itself in two, a move the company announced almost a year ago. The original Xerox kept its printer and copier business. The second company will focus on business process outsourcing, providing payment processing and other services. Xerox will receive $1.8 billion in cash.

The new company, Conduent Inc., now trades under the ticker symbol “CNDT.” That stock lost 94 cents, or 6.3 percent, to $13.97.

ENERGY: Oil prices turned lower after jumping more than 2 percent early in the day. U.S. crude gave up $1.24, or 2.3 percent, to $52.48 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, skidded $1.16, or 2 percent, to $55.66 a barrel in London.

Despite that slump, energy companies traded higher. But natural gas companies dropped as natural gas futures dropped 10.6 percent. Southwestern Energy lost 96 cents, or 8.9 percent, to $9.86, and Cabot Oil & Gas gave up $1.26, or 5.8 percent, to $22.

MANUFACTURING ACTION: The manufacturing sector continued its recovery and ended 2016 on a strong note. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 54.7 in December, its highest reading of the year. That was the fourth straight month of expansion and the ninth out of the last 10. The result was a bit stronger than analysts expected.

MISSING 2016: Graphics processor maker Nvidia couldn’t break out of a recent slump. The stock more than tripled in value last year, but hit a wall in the final days of trading. The stock slid $6.61, or 6.2 percent, to $100.13. It’s down 14 percent since Dec. 27, when it closed at an all-time high.

DOUBLE CLICKED: Technology stocks also traded higher. Facebook added $1.91, or 1.7 percent, to $116.96 and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, rose $16.20, or 2 percent, to $808.65. On Monday Alphabet announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler. The companies will work together on a connected car system. Fiat Chrysler stock picked up 44 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $9.56.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.46 percent from 2.43 percent late Friday.

Utility companies fell, as did real estate investment trusts and companies that make and sell household goods. Those stocks are often compared to bonds because they pay large dividends, but the jump in yields Tuesday encouraged investors to look elsewhere.

CURRENCIES: The dollar jumped to 117.35 yen from 116.78 yen. The euro slumped to $1.0427 from $1.0531.

OVERSEAS: The FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 0.5 percent to another all-time high. The French CAC 40 added 0.3 percent. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.7 percent, and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.9 percent. Tokyo’s stock market remained closed for the New Year’s holiday.