Stocks Zigzag as Housing Data Miss Views

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U.S. equity markets hovered in a tight range Monday even as data on the housing market missed Wall Street's estimates. 

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As of 3:00 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 18 points, or 0.11%, to 16496, the S&P 500 fell 0.1 point, or 0.01%, to 1841 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.71 point, or 0.02%, to 4157.

Wall Street is set to close out what's been a blockbuster year on Tuesday. The broad S&P 500 has surged close to 30% in what is likely to be its best year on a percent basis since 1997. That compares with a 13.4% gain in 2012. 

The gains have been driven by several factors, including the Federal Reserve's aggressive monetary policy, an improving economy, rising corporate profits, easing geopolitical pressure in the Middle East, and a taming of the eurozone debt crisis. 

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The gains haven't been limited to the U.S. -- the Japanese Nikkei 225 closed out its best year since 1972 on the day. Those gains have also been driven by a powerful monetary and fiscal policy. 

The data docket was fairly light Monday. The National Association of Realtors said contracts to buy previously-owned homes rose 0.2% in November, missing Wall Street estimates of a 1% increase.

On the corporate front, Crocs (CROX) shares surged after the maker of funky footwear revealed a $200 million investment from private-equity heavyweight Blackstone Group (BX). Apple (AAPL) said late Friday investors should vote against a proposal from billionaire investor Carl Icahn to unleash a $50 billion share buyback. 

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures dipped 56 cents, or 0.56%, to $99.75 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.48% to $2.802 a gallon. Gold tumbled 96 cents, or 0.94%, to $1,203 a troy ounce. 

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