Stocks rose for a second day on Tuesday, helped by a stabilization in crude oil prices. Chipotle Mexican Grill fell on more worries about the safety of its food.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 165.65 points, or 1 percent, to 17,417.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 17.82 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,038.97 and the Nasdaq composite rose 32.19 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,001.11.
It was another light day of trading. Many investors have closed their portfolios for the year or are on vacation for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. However, a modest recovery in oil prices did help lift energy and materials stocks.
"Investors are either done for the year or are setting up their portfolios for 2016, buying this year's winners or doing reallocation to their portfolios," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Chipotle Mexican Grill fell $27.40, or 5 percent, to $494.61 after the fast food chain disclosed additional cases of E. coli had occurred at its restaurants.
U.S. crude oil futures closed up 33 cents to $36.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was down 24 cents to $36.11 a barrel in London. Energy stocks were among the bigger gainers Tuesday, with the energy sector of the S&P 500 index up 1.2 percent. Mining and materials stocks were also up.
Diamond Offshore rose $1.13, or 5.6 percent, to $21.43. Drilling rig operator Transocean rose 43 cents, or 4 percent, to $12.55.
Markets are searching for direction as the flow of economic data slows dramatically until after the New Year. Investors have already had plenty of time to digest this month's major decisions by the Federal Reserve to raise rates and by the European Central Bank to increase its stimulus efforts.
Most investors expect stocks and bonds to trade in a narrow range until January.
"We need a catalyst, and look to the week of the employment report to be that catalyst, but that is still two weeks away," John Briggs, head of American fixed income strategy at RBS, wrote in a note to investors.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell 1.3 cents to $1.088 a gallon, wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 cents to $1.175 a gallon and natural gas fell 1.3 cents to $1.888 per thousand cubic feet.
The euro rose to $1.0952 from $1.0926 a day earlier. The dollar was unchanged against the Japanese yen at 121.04. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.24 percent from 2.19 percent the day before.