Stocks close higher, helped by healthcare companies

APphoto_Financial Markets Wall Street
Stocks closed higher Tuesday, helped by healthcare companies, which offset falling energy company shares.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Stocks closed slightly higher Tuesday, boosted by UnitedHealth Group and other healthcare companies, which helped outweigh steep declines in energy companies. 

Tiffany jumped after it reported better quarterly results than analysts expected. 

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.70 points, or 0.1%, to 19,121.60. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2.94 points, or 0.1%, to 2,204.66, and the Nasdaq composite rose 11.11 points, or 0.2%, to 5,379.92. 

Stocks started the day slightly lower, but posted slight gains by late morning and stayed higher throughout the afternoon. 


Healthcare stocks were a primary driver of the market’s upward turn. UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, backed its forecast for this year and said it expects its earnings to grow in 2017. That’s because of stable medical costs, less exposure to Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges and growth for Optum, a business that manages pharmacy benefits, runs clinics and doctors’ offices and provides technology services. 

The Dow component closed up $5.48, or 3.6%, to $157.59. 

Other healthcare stocks also rallied. Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose $6.21, or 5%, to $125.59, drugmaker AbbVie rose $2.13, or 3.6%, to $61.59. Other insurance companies also posted gains. Aetna rose $3.64, or 2.8%, to $132.03. Cigna, Humana and Anthem all closed up more than 1%. 

Healthcare stocks rose following the announcement of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, Georgia Congressman Tom Price, who is an adamant opponent of the Affordable Care Act and is likely to head up the Trump administration’s rollback of the law. Analysts at Jefferies and Morgan Stanley both said this week that the Trump administration would be a positive for the industry. 


After taking a pause on Monday, stocks remain in rally mode since the election. However, the gains have slowed in the last week. 

“We’re seeing a lot of consolidation after the market’s big run,” said Karen Hiatt, a senior portfolio manager at Allianz Global Investors. 

In energy, oil prices fell sharply after it seemed like a deal to reduce oil production among OPEC nations was starting to fall apart ahead of the group’s meeting Wednesday. Saudi Arabia’s representatives have sounded skeptical while Iran is hesitant to limit its own output as it ramps up production following years of international sanctions. 

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.85, or 3.9%, to close at $45.23 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, tumbled $1.86, or 3.9%, to close at $46.38 a barrel in London. 

Energy stocks followed oil prices lower, with oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron falling roughly 1% each. The energy component of the S&P 500 fell 1.2% on Tuesday. 

Luxury jeweler Tiffany traded higher after the company reported stronger sales in Asia, which countered weaker results from the United States and Europe. Its stock gained $2.46, or 3.1%, to $80.60. 

In other energy commodities, heating oil fell 5 cents to $1.46 a gallon, wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $1.38 a gallon and natural gas was mostly unchanged at $3.32 per 1,000 cubic feet. 

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.30% from 2.31%. The dollar rose to 112.33 yen from 112.26 yen. The euro rose to $1.0647 compared with $1.0597 yesterday. 


In metals, the price of gold fell $2.90, or 0.2%, to $1,187.90 an ounce. Silver rose 8 cents to $16.66 an ounce and copper fell 6 cents to $2.60 a pound. 


2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices and additional analysis.

8:05 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details.

This article was originally published at 7:04 a.m.

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