U.S. stocks finished little changed Tuesday, with the S&P 500 wavering around its peak, as data had the economy growing more than previously forecast in the third quarter, offsetting an unexpected drop in consumer confidence in November.
The energy sector weighed on the broad market, with oil prices falling to a four-year low two days ahead of an OPEC meeting that has investors considering prospects for the first reduction in production quotas since 2008.
“The energy complex is so very important, not only to the U.S. consumer, but Russia will be observing this meeting,” said Jim Russell, portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor, of Thursday’s gathering by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Crude erased initial Tuesday gains after the head of Russia’s state oil producer said a drop below $60 a barrel would not mean Russia would have to ease its output. Crude-oil futures dropped $1.69 to $74.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
With the exception of the energy sector, the decline in oil prices have been a “tailwind for equities so far this year. If you remove that, or neutralize that positive, equities could react,” said Russell.
“My guess is the oil markets are holding their collective breath to see what are the developments of the meeting,” he added.
Tuesday’s economic reports were mixed; the Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence declined to 88.7 in November from 94.1 the prior month, and the Commerce Department reported gross domestic product climbed at a 3.9 percent annualized rate, up from an initial 3.5 percent estimate.
“Confidence is still within a zone of okay, or consistent with levels we saw in September, and GDP was above expectations. The macro environment in the U.S. continues to reflect a Goldilocks economy of moderate growth and contained inflation,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
Another report had a gauge of home prices in 20 cities climbing at a reduced pace in September
After fluctuating on either side of neutral, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.96 points to 17,814.94.
After setting another intraday record, the S&P 500 fell 2.38 points, or nearly 0.1 percent, to 2,067.03, with consumer discretionary the best performing and energy hardest hit among its 10 major sectors.
The Nasdaq added 3.36 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,758.25.
For every seven shares falling, more than eight gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 846 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.4 billion.