NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks closed mixed after a drop in the last minutes of trading as investors weighed downbeat housing numbers against improving U.S. consumer confidence.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were little changed. The Dow closed down 2.6 points, or less than 0.1%, at 12,291 after slipping in the final minutes of trading. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 point, or less than 0.1% to 1,265 and the Nasdaq advanced 6.5 points, 0.3%, to 2,625.
U.S. consumer confidence spiked more than forecast to 64.5 in December, from 55.2 last month, according to the Conference Board. The average economist estimate was for an increase to 58.3, according to Thomson Reuters, reflecting an improving U.S. jobs market. Higher confidence bodes well for consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
Energy stocks gave the broader market a boost as oil futures broke above $100 a barrel. February futures for crude settled up $1.66 at $101.34 on the back of stronger demand and tensions in the Middle East after Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. Chevron (CVX) was among the Dow's leading gainers, climbing 0.5% to $107.98. The iShares S&P Global Energy Sector (IXC) exchange-traded fund was up 0.1%.Weighing on market sentiment, however, was a report suggesting housing market recovery will remain sluggish. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index of national home prices fell 1.2% in October. Economists had expected to see only a 0.4% drop for the month, according to Thomson Reuters. "The week opened with one of the most uninspired trading sessions in three-years in terms of volumes," Ian Lygen, market strategist with CRT Capital Group, wrote in a note. "This action came despite the sharp upside surprise in Consumer Confidence - not to suggest that the data was irreverent, but rather that there was no one around to trade it."
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-- Written by Kaitlyn Kiernan in New York.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Kaitlyn Kiernan To follow the writer on Twitter, go to @Kaitlyn_Kiernan.
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