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US stock indexes eke out gains in quiet day on Wall Street

U.S. stock indexes capped another quiet day on Wall Street Wednesday with slight gains, recouping some of the market's modest losses from a day earlier.

Technology, health care and industrials stocks accounted for much of the gain. A report showing that pending U.S. home sales inched higher last month helped lift homebuilder shares.

Retailers and consumer-goods manufacturers declined the most, following a late-afternoon slide. Energy stocks also fell along with the price of crude oil. Bond yields fell following a report showing U.S. consumer confidence dipped this month.

"Trading is obviously very light, but the market is certainly going out on a high as we head into the end of the year," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.12 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,682.62. The Dow Jones industrial average added 28.09 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,774.30. The Nasdaq rose 3.09 points, or 0.04 percent, to 6,939.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 0.29 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,543.94.

Wednesday was another quiet, post-holiday day for the markets, though a couple of economic reports helped drive some trades.

The National Association of Realtors said signed contracts to buy U.S. homes increased 0.2 percent in November. The report is a barometer of future purchases. Most homebuilder shares moved higher after the report. LGI Homes led the pack, climbing $2.47, or 3.4 percent, to $75.46.

Separately, the Conference Board said its latest consumer confidence index declined slightly this month, just missing analysts' forecasts. The decline in the index drove a pickup in bond purchases, sending prices higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slid to 2.41 percent from 2.48 percent late Tuesday.

"This is probably a little bit of an air pocket on light volume in terms of yields, but it is clearly being impacted by the somewhat softer number that we saw out of consumer confidence today," said Bill Northey, senior vice president at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

Technology stocks were among the biggest gainers Wednesday. Qorvo was up the most, adding $1.36, or 2.1 percent, to $67.26.

Several health sector stocks also notched gains. Envision Healthcare picked up 82 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $34.56.

Shares in Macy's and other big retail chains declined a day after scoring gains on strong holiday season sales. Macy's slid $1.21, or 4.5 percent, to $25.64, while Kohl's lost $1.58, or 2.8 percent, to $55.29.

Callaway Golf tumbled 6.9 percent after the company said it invested another $20 million in entertainment company Topgolf, giving it a 14-percent stake. Callaway lost $1.04 to $14.02.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 33 cents to settle at $59.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, slipped 58 cents to close at $66.44 per barrel in London.

The slide weighed on oil producers and other energy companies. Chesapeake Energy fell 12 cents, or 3 percent, to $3.88.

Gold added $3.90 to $1,291.40 an ounce. Silver gained 15 cents to $16.76 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $3.28 a pound.

The dollar rose to 113.26 yen from 113.18 yen on Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1899 from $1.1867.

The price of bitcoin fell 3.9 percent to $15,125 as of 4:50 p.m. ET, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. Bitcoin futures on the Cboe Futures Exchange slid 5.5 percent to $14,945. The futures contracts allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.79 a gallon. Heating oil was flat at $2.04 a gallon. Natural gas rose 10 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $2.74 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher. Germany's DAX was flat, while France's CAC 40 edged up 1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up nearly 0.1 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was virtually unchanged. South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched 0.1 percent higher.

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