NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were headed for yet another record high Tuesday as oil fell below $75 a barrel driving the S&P 500 Index into record-breaking territory. The benchmark hit an intraday record of 2,054.9, up 0.7% for the day, during the final hour of trading.
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Crude oil prices continued to slide, adding to a 30% drop suffered since summer as supply has far outstripped demand and as OPEC has given little insight as to whether it will cut production. OPEC member countries will meet in Venice next week.
West Texas Intermediate crude fell 1.6% to $74.44 a barrel on Tuesday. Economists hope the falling prices in gasoline will translate to higher consumer spending in other areas of the economy.
"The U.S. consumer is set to benefit from a tailwind of falling commodity prices, a strong dollar and record household wealth," Jefferies analysts wrote in a note. "We would argue that labor markets are tighter than surveys suggest."
Falling commodity prices may also translate into lower wholesale and consumer inflation, Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a research report Tuesday. "This sharp fall will continue to weigh on the energy complex over the next few months and meaningfully dampen both headline producer and consumer prices," analysts said.
For now, though, U.S. producer prices came in higher than expected. The measure increased 0.2% month on month in October and, excluding food and energy, the "core" Producer Price Index rose as high as 0.4%. Forecasts called for a 0.1% decline in overall PPI and a 0.1% increase in "core" prices.
Global markets were making big moves on Tuesday, led by Japan's Nikkei, which spiked more than 2% as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delayed unpopular sales tax increase to 2017. A day earlier, the world's third-largest economy unexpectedly dipped into recession in its third quarter, taking the Nikkei down 3%.
European markets were higher after Germany's confidence indicator, the ZEW survey, showed an increase in sentiment in November, the first positive result for the year. Germany's DAX surged 1.6%, though ZEW President Clemens Fuest tempered enthusiasm somewhat, noting in a statement that the "economic environment remains fragile, not least due to ongoing geopolitical tensions."
Stateside, the NAHB housing market index for November spiked to a reading of 58, above economists' estimates for a reading of 55, marking the fifth consecutive month above 50. Builder confidence increased in all regions but the Midwest.
The health care sector was leading gainers with rallies in Allergan (AGN) , Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Medtronic (MDT) . Allergan and Actavis (ACT) kicked off positive sentiment in the industry after announcing a $66 billion acquisition deal on Monday, contributing to a total $3 trillion in global deals made this year, according to Thomson Reuters data. M&A activity has jumped 50% from a year earlier and is up 65% among U.S. companies.
Earnings were once again in focus as major retailers issued quarterly reports. Urban Outfitters (URBN) was tumbling more than 6% after missing profit estimates while comparable sales at its flagship brand slid 7%.
Home-improvement retailer Home Depot (HD) was down 1.4%, though earnings beat forecasts by 2 cents a share. Sales guidance for 2014 of 4.8% growth was restated.
SunEdison (SUNE) and TerraForm Power (TERP) were gaining after announcing a joint venture to purchase U.S. wind energy developer First Wind for $2.4 billion. SunEdison surged 31% and TerraForm spiked 27.7%.
Finland's Nokia (NOK) was 3.2% higher after launching a 7.9-inch Android tablet to rival Apple's (AAPL) iPad line. Himax Technologies (HIMX) slipped more than 6% after receiving a downgrade to "perform" from Oppenheimer following a weak third quarter and light guidance.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.