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U.S. stock indexes were mixed Tuesday, a day after a record close for the S&P 500 amid lower liquidity in the last days of the year.

The S&P 500 added 0.1% after the broad-market index rallied 1.4% on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked up 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.2%.

Stocks have been buffeted by the spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks as governments around the world have imposed restrictions to try to curb infections. But some recent studies have suggested that the variant might result in milder illness with lower risk of hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the recommended isolation period for some people who test positive to try to minimize disruptions. Still, many economists have lowered their forecasts for economic growth in the first quarter of next year.

“What is emanating from markets is the faith that Omicron won’t be able to disrupt the economic recovery,” said Antonio Cavarero, head of investments at Generali Insurance Asset Management. “There is no visible risk reduction.” That is partly due to lower liquidity from fewer people working around the holidays, he said.

Stock investors are eyeing a phenomenon known as the “Santa Claus Rally.” Indexes such as the S&P 500 have a tendency to rise in the last five days of the year and the first two days of the new year. Such a rally takes place at the end of about four of every five years, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

“It happens because people start positioning. People are reading everyone’s 2022 estimates and planning for next year,” said Jeffrey Meyers, a consultant to hedge funds and family offices at Market Securities.

Governments and policy advisers are showing signs of taking a lighter touch with policies regarding the fast-spreading Omicron variant, reducing quarantine times and in some instances foregoing social-distancing restrictions as they try to keep economies moving. Vaccine makers rose, with Novavax gaining 4.8% and Moderna up 2.4%.

That news has also helped shares of travel and energy companies, with Carnival advancing 3.4% and Valero Energy up 2%.

Oil prices ticked up, with global benchmark Brent crude climbing 0.74% to $78.80 a barrel.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked down to 1.461% from 1.480% on Monday, declining for a third consecutive day. Shorter-dated bond yields rose, with the two-year yield reaching 0.746%. 

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, showed U.S. home-price growth slowed in October. Shares of homemakers edged higher during Tuesday’s session, with D.R. Horton advancing 1.1% and Taylor Morrison up 1.3%.

Earnings season has largely wound down. Among the few still reporting is egg producer Cal-Maine Foods, which is expected to post results Tuesday after markets close.

Stocks have been buffeted by the spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks.

Photo: John Minchillo/Associated Press

Bitcoin slipped around 3.3% from its level at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, trading around $49,032. The cryptocurrency has oscillated around the $50,000 mark for the past five days.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 added 0.6%.

The Turkish lira weakened 0.8% to 11.8 to the dollar. The currency had strengthened after the government announced a new economic plan last week. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “may have bought Turkey some time but it’s still not a great story,” Mr. Meyers said. Speculative investors likely closed out short positions ahead of the long holiday weekend and may now be putting them back on, weighing on the lira, he said.

In Asia, most major benchmarks rose. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.4% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.2%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 advanced 1.4%, led by gains in technology stocks.  

Shares of China Evergrande Group pared early gains, rising 5.7%. The heavily indebted real-estate developer said construction work had resumed at more than 90% of its stalled residential projects. It also said it was delivering apartments faster to homebuyers.

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at [email protected]

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Source: WSJ

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