Market Snapshot: Stocks inch up as industrials, health-care sector tip higher

U.S. stock benchmarks climbed tentatively higher on Wednesday, suggesting equities could halt a two-day skid, although the gains were slight as investors found few fresh catalysts in what is typically one of the lowest-volume weeks of the year.

Stocks are on track to close out December with yet another positive month—possibly marking the first time global stocks have risen in every month of a calendar year—as well as strong gains for 2017 overall.

What are stock indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.05%  rose 18 points, or 0.1%, to 24,764. The S&P 500 SPX, -0.01%  added half a point to 2,681, supported by a 0.5% in real-estate stocks, and a 0.3% rise in the health-care and industrials sectors

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.01%  was up 1 points to 6,937.

The indexes are coming off a two-day streak of slight declines. If the Dow closes down for a third straight session, that will mark its longest such retreat since September.

Activity remained light, and Tuesday was the lowest-volume day of 2017, not including shortened sessions. Overall, volumes in 2017 have been anemic, with average daily trading throughout the year coming in at a three-year low.

The market was broadly higher on Wednesday, with nine of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors in positive territory. Real-estate stocks rose 0.4%, as did health-care and utilities names. Energy shares fell 0.3% alongside a 0.5% drop in the price of crude oil.

What’s driving the markets?

Markets both in Europe and the U.S. were trading in tight ranges, with many traders likely to remain on vacation until after the New Year’s holiday on Monday. Last week, stocks rallied to records after the Republicans passed the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years as well as a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded into early 2018.

In the latest economic data, a read on consumer confidence fell to 122.1 in December, down from the previous reading of 128.6. For 2017 overall, however, confidence was at its highest level since 2000.

Separately, pending home sales ticked up 0.2% in November.

What are analysts saying?

“There’s not much happening today, but the quiet action tells a really important story: it tells you the bulls remain in control, that sellers are few and far between, and that we’re waiting for the next big catalyst, which will probably be earnings,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of 50 Park Investments.

“Otherwise, we’re seeing the market digest a very strong 2017 rally. It is perfectly normal and healthy to see the market pause after a huge rally, and the absence of selling in and of itself is very healthy.”

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Boeing Co. BA, -0.04%  slipped less than 0.1%, pulling back from early intraday gains after the plane manufacturer said Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc has ordered four Dreamliners valued at $1.1 billion at list prices.

Apple Inc. AAPL, -0.29%  dipped 0.2% after reports the company is being sued for slowing down older iPhone models without warning to compensate for poor battery performance.

Shares of Pareteum Corp. TEUM, -6.99%  fell 6.4%, retreating after a 120% rally from Tuesday, when the provider of telecom software and systems said it has “completed development enabling it to add support of Blockchain technology to its billing and settlement services.”

Celgene Corp. CELG, -2.22%  was downgraded to market perform by analysts at Bernstein. Its shares were down about 2%.

Tesla Inc. TSLA, -1.71%  lost 1.8% after KeyBanc lowered its delivery estimates for the electric-car maker’s Model 3 line in the fourth quarter.

Among energy companies, Marathon Oil MRO, -1.01%  fell 0.9%, while Hess Corp. HES, -0.71%  was down 0.8%.

What are other markets doing?

Stocks in Asia closed mixed, while European benchmarks SXXP, +0.07% struggled for direction around the flatline.

Oil prices dropped, with West Texas Intermediate CLG8, -0.50%  declining from its highest settlement since June 2015 reached on Tuesday.

Metals were mostly higher, with gold GCG8, +0.40%  finishing up 0.3% at $1,291.40 an ounce.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.29%  was down 0.2% at 93.02.

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