Stocks edge higher, led by health care

|By:, SA News Editor

Stocks eked out slim gains as a round of better than expected U.S. economic reports was offset by a sharp drop in oil prices.

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

U.S. crude oil settled 3.9% lower at $45.23/bbl, weighed by several reports of internal discord among OPEC members that could derail plans for an agreement limiting production.

The health care sector (+0.7%) displayed relative strength, bolstered by biotech names and Dow component UnitedHealth, with real estate (+0.7%), utilities (+0.3%), financials (+0.2%) and tech (+0.2%) also higher; the energy sector (-1.2%) was by far the biggest laggard.

Intraday trading volume was below average, but final-hour selling brought the NYSE floor total past 900M shares.

U.S. Treasury prices fell early but then climbed steadily to close with gains, as the benchmark 10-year yield slipped by a basis point to 2.30% and the 30-year yield slipped 3 bps to 2.95%.