NEW YORK (
) - Stocks finished Tuesday's session not far from where they started on either side of the flatline as unexpected dips in housing and consumer data kept a cap on gains during a second consecutive light trading day.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
added 21 points, or 0.2%, to close at 11,576. The mild gain was still good enough for the blue-chip index's best finish since late August 2008, however, and the Dow is now up 5.2% so far in December and 11% year-to-date. The
gained a point, or 0.08%, to settle at 1259, while the
lost 4 points, or 0.2%, to finish at 2663.
Basic materials and energy stocks were the session's best performers, rebounding a day after markets questioned whether China's recent interest rate hike would have a significant impact on global growth. The February gold contract added $22.70, or 1.6%, to settle at $1,405.60 an ounce and
rose 2.4% to $61.55.
The February crude oil contract gained 49 cents to finish at $91.49 a barrel while shares of
all hit fresh 52-week highs on Tuesday.
Chevron, which advanced 1.2% to $91.19 was the Dow's top performer.
were other top gainers. Breadth was very positive within the Dow as 19 of the index's 30 components rose.
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell to 52.5 in December, from 54.3 in November, suggesting that Americans remain concerned about job security and reluctant to spend. Consumer purchases account for two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, making it a critical factor in the economic recovery. Economists had expected the gauge to rise to 56.1.
"Consumers' assessment of the current state of the economy and labor market remains tepid," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "All signs continue to suggest that the economic expansion will continue well into 2011, but that the pace of growth will remain moderate."
Homebuilder stocks were under pressure following news that the
S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index fell 0.8% in October, dashing expectations for an increase of 0.1%, according to Briefing.com. In September, the index rose 0.4%, which was downwardly revised from 0.6%.
SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF
shed 1% to $17.43.
lost 2.3% at $13.43 and
fell 1.6% to $7.37.
Trading remained light in the week between Christmas and New Year's holidays that saw an especially slow session on Monday since a
weekend blizzard kept many workers at home. 558 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange while 1.1 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq. Breadth in the broad market was nearly split down the middle with 47% posting gains and 50% losing ground.
saw its stock jump 2.1% to $35.32 following a spate of
analysts initiated coverage of the stock - all with buy ratings.
The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up by 0.1%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note weakened 1 10/32, lifting the yield to 3.489%.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng was closed for a holiday, and Japan's Nikkei shed 0.6%. The FTSE in London was also closed while the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.02%.
--Written by Melinda Peer in New York
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.