Stocks are modestly higher in midday trading Tuesday, helped by a stabilization in oil prices, which helped broadly lift energy stocks. Chipotle Mexican Grill fell on more worries about the safety of its food.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 61 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,312 as of 12:05 p.m. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,027 and the Nasdaq composite was mostly unchanged at 4,969.
Markets are searching for direction as the flow of economic data slows dramatically until after the New Year. Investors have already had plenty of time to digest this month’s major decisions by the Federal Reserve to raise rates and by the European Central Bank to increase its stimulus efforts.
“Today appears to be providing confirmation that unpredictability, inconsistency and choppiness will likely dominate the festive period amid lower volumes,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.
At this point, many fund managers and traders have closed their books for 2015. The holiday-shortened weeks of Christmas and New Year’s also are contributing to lower trading volumes. Most investors expect stocks and bonds to trade in a narrow range until January.
“We need a catalyst, and look to the week of the employment report to be that catalyst, but that is still two weeks away,” John Briggs, head of American fixed income strategy at RBS, wrote in a note to investors.
U.S. crude oil futures were up 59 cents to $36.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was up two cents to $36.37 a barrel in London. Energy stocks were among the bigger gainers Tuesday, with the energy sector of the S&P 500 index up 1.5 percent.
Diamond Offshore rose $1, or 5 percent, to $21.30. Kinder Morgan rose 63 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $15.78.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the U.S. economy grew at a slightly slower pace over the summer than the government had previously estimated. The U.S. economy expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, a bit lower than its previous estimate of 2.1 percent.
Chipotle Mexican Grill fell $23.12, or 4.4 percent, to $498.79 after the fast food chain disclosed additional cases of E. coli had occurred at its restaurants.
The euro rose to $1.0970 from $1.0926 a day earlier. The dollar slipped to 120.94 yen from 121.04 yen. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.22 percent from 2.19 percent the day before.