The Dow industrials and the Nasdaq slipped on Tuesday as a plunge in November pending home sales gave the market a headwind, though that was offset by another sign of improvement in the manufacturing sector.
The S&P 500 was fractionally higher at midday after fluctuating between positive and negative territory following the economic data's mixed signals on the economy.
Stocks declined after the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales broke a nine-month streak of gains to fall 16 percent in November, a far sharper drop than had been expected.
Shares of luxury home builder Toll Brothers
But the housing data was offset by the government's report that new factory orders rose 1.1 percent in November, their third straight monthly increase. The data suggested the manufacturing sector would continue to support an overall economic recovery.
The housing data was weak, but factory orders were very positive ... said Tom Nyheim, vice president at Christiana Bank & Trust Co in Greenville, Delaware.
They show that you're getting growth and traction in the economy, and that's helping to counter the home sales.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 36.05 points, or 0.34 percent, to 10,547.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.41 of a point, or 0.04 percent, at 1,133.40. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> declined 2.84 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,305.58.
A bright spot was provided by Kraft Foods Inc
Investors will get a fresh picture of the state of consumer spending as automakers report U.S. vehicle sales for December. Economists expect median annualized domestic sales of 3.90 million cars and 4.45 million trucks, versus 3.87 million cars and 4.44 million trucks sold in November.
Ahead of the monthly vehicle sales data, Ford Motor Co
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)