NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks continued to grind higher with little news to spur action and trading at below-average volume. Markets were on a tear last week after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and colleagues said the central bank would remain "patient" in its approach to interest rate hikes.
The S&P 500 added 0.39% to 2,078, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 156 points, and the Nasdaq was up 0.34%.
Oil prices fell Monday with West Texas Intermediate crude down 3.5% to $55.16 a barrel after a brief rebound earlier. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said his country was prepared to increase output to meet the demands of new customers, according to Saudi newspaper al-Hayat.
As Wall Street enters its final two holiday-shortened weeks of the year, trading volume likely will remain light and corporate announcements scant. Existing home sales slid 6.1% to 4.93 million in November, down from 5.25 million a month earlier and missing estimates of an annualized pace of 5.17 million.
"This morning's disappointing home sales figures are part of the reason for the [Fed's] more lackluster assessment of the U.S. economy," said Sterne Agee chief economist Lindsey Piegza in a note. "Despite modest improvements in the labor market, consumers are still struggling with minimal income growth, dilapidated savings and in some cases, limited access to credit."
Economic growth significantly improved in November, according to the Chicago Fed national activity index Monday. The index increased to 0.73 from an upwardly revised 0.31 in October, while the three-month average jumped its highest point since May 2010.
BlackBerry (BBRY) added 6.9% as TD Securities issued an upgrade to "buy." Analysts said the smartphone maker is "effectively transitioning to a cross-platform software/services company" and that weak device sales are not indicative of the company's future.
Ocwen Financial (OCN) shares were down 27% after the company announced its settlement agreement with the New York Department of Financial Services. As part of the agreement, the company will pay a civil monetary penalty of $100 million to the DFS by the end of this month.
Express Scripts (ESRX) and AbbVie (ABBV) were mixed after reaching an exclusive hepatitis C pharmacy deal. AbbVie shares slipped 1.1% and Express jumped 1.7%. Gilead Sciences (GILD) dropped nearly 14% after Express said it would no longer cover the company's treatments.
Sony (SNE) shares gained nearly 1% after the company's attorney said the company was "still exploring options" as to the distribution of The Interview, the controversial movie that triggered hacker attacks against the studio.
Boeing (BA) shares were up more than 1% after announcing that Air China has committed to purchase 60 737s, including Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX airplanes, valued at more than $6 billion at current list prices.
-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.