Stocks Finish Flat on Mixed Economic News

Stocks finished mostly flat on Tuesday as investors weighed downbeat housing numbers against improving U.S. consumer confidence. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.65 points, or 0.02%, at 12,291.35. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 point, or 0.01% to 1,265.43 and the Nasdaq advanced 6.56 points, 0.25%, to 2,625.20.

U.S. home prices fell in most major cities for the second straight month. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday showed prices dropped in October from September in 19 of the 20 cities tracked.

Consumer confidence shot higher for the second month in a row in December, according to a survey from The Conference Board. The research firm’s overall confidence index, released Tuesday, jumped 9.3 points to 64.5. The increase follows a 14.3-point rise in November.

President Obama plans to nominate lawyer Jerome Powell and economist Jeremy Stein to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, according to a White House statement. Both candidates hold degrees from Princeton, have served briefly at the Treasury Department and have diverse backgrounds in the finance field.

The Treasury Department in its long-delayed semi-annual report on currencies said China is not a currency manipulator. “Based on the ongoing appreciation of the RMB against the dollar since June 2010, the decline in China’s current account surplus, and China’s official commitments at the G-20, APEC, and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that it will move more rapidly toward exchange rate flexibility.

Crude-oil futures closed above $101 a barrel Tuesday, as tension in Iran sparked concerns over global supplies and improving U.S. consumer confidence helped buoy prospects for oil demand. Crude for February delivery gained $1.66, or 1.7%, to $101.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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