Stocks close higher as health care, real estate lead; oil tumbles 3.9% amid OPEC uncertainty

U.S. equities closed higher on Tuesday, led by health care and real estate, as investors digested falling oil prices ahead of a key OPEC meeting, as well as economic data.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 25 points higher, with UnitedHealth Group contributing the most gains. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 percent, with health care and real estate rising about 0.7 percent. The Nasdaq composite outperformed, closing 0.2 percent higher and hitting a new intraday high of 5,403.86. The three major indexes traded lower earlier in the session.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Monday, as a post-election rally paused, with the major indexes dropping off from all-time high levels. The small-caps Russell 2000, which has been outperforming large-cap indexes, fell more than 1 percent, snapping a 15-day winning streak, its longest in 20 years.

"I think we're at a point where people are afraid of pushing the market too far off the fundamentals, but I don't think there are any news that could push the market markedly lower" in the near term, said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.

West Texas Intermediate futures for January delivery dropped 3.9 percent to settle at $45.23 per barrel. OPEC are set to meet in Vienna, Austria on Wednesday and traders will be keeping a close eye on announcements regarding an oil production cut. In September, OPEC had outlined a deal to cut output by approximately 1 million barrels per day.

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"All eyes are on the upcoming OPEC meeting and traders are awaiting the decision. The headlines are not very positive and this is making investors very jittery," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said in a note.

Indonesian Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan said he was not sure OPEC would clinch a deal to limit oil output when it met. Meanwhile, non-OPEC producer Russia confirmed on Tuesday it would not attend the OPEC gathering, but added that a meeting between the group and non-affiliated producers at a later stage was possible.

That said, stocks had retained gains for most of Tuesday, as of afternoon trade. "We're seeing a bit of decoupling between oil prices and stocks," said Adam Sarhan, CEO at 50 Park Investments. "Since [President-elect Donald] Trump won, equities have soared, and oil has not."

"Unless we see a breakout below $40 or above $50, the market is comfortable with oil trading in this range," Sarhan said.

In economic news, the second read on third-quarter GDP came in at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent, above a previous reading of 2.9 percent.

"While old news, the revision provides us with the baseline from which Q4 activity began. On a 4 quarter run rate, GDP growth is now averaging 1.6% and 1.8% in the 3 quarters year to date," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, in a note to clients.

Other data released Tuesday included the S&P Core Logic Case-Shiller index, which showed U.S. home prices gained 5.5 percent in September. The Consumer confidence index for November came in at 107.1, well above expectations.

Economic data has been at the forefront for investors as they brace themselves for a possible interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve next month. According to the CME Group's FedWatch tool, market expectations for a December rate hike are above 95 percent.

Treasury prices recovered to erase earlier losses on Tuesday, with the two-year note yield trading at 1.099 percent and the benchmark 10-year yield around 2.302 percent.

The U.S. dollar slipped about 0.35 percent against a basket of currencies, with the euro around $1.064 and the yen around 112.6. However, the greenback has strengthened considerably recently. Joe O'Leary, senior FX trader at Silicon Valley Bank, said the dollar's rise has been driven by optimism in the U.S. economy. "I think that, compared to the rest of the world, we're in a pretty good place," he said.

Overseas, European equities closed mostly higher, with the Stoxx 600 Europe index gaining 0.33 percent.

Symbol
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Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.70 points, or 0.12 percent, to close at 19,121.60, with UnitedHealth leading advancers and Chevron the biggest decliner.

The S&P 500 gained 2.94 points, or 0.13 percent, to end at 2,204.66, with real estate leading nine sectors higher and energy and telecommunications lagging.

The Nasdaq advanced 11.11 points, or 0.21 percent, to close at 5,379.

Decliners were a step ahead of advancers at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 912.20 million and a composite volume of 3.638 billion at the close.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded lower, near 12.7.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $2.90 to $1,187.90 per ounce.

—CNBC's Sam Meredith and Reuters contributed to this report.

On tap this week:

Tuesday

Earnings: Splunk, Autodesk, Nutanix

Wednesday

Earnings: American Eagle Outfitters, La-Z-Boy, Box, Synopsys, Royal Bank of Canada, Guess, Pure Storage, Semtech, PVH

8:00 a.m. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan

8:15 a.m. ADP employment

8:30 a.m. Personal income

9:45 a.m. Chicago PMI

10:00 a.m. Pending home sales

12:35 p.m. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester

2:00 p.m. Beige book

Thursday

Monthly vehicle sales

Earnings: Toronto-Dominion Bank, Dollar General, Ulta Salon, Lands' End, Kroger, Express, Canadian Imperial Bank, Ambarella, Workday, Smith & Wesson, Five Below, Ascena Retail

8:30 a.m. Initial claims

8:30 a.m. Cleveland Fed's Mester

9:00 a.m. Dallas Fed's Kaplan

9:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI

10:00 a.m. ISM manufacturing

10:00 a.m. Construction spending

Friday

Earnings: Big Lots

8:30 a.m. Employment report

12:30 p.m. Fed Gov. Daniel Tarullo

12:30 p.m. Cleveland Fed's Mester