updated 9/6/2006 8:53:16 AM ET 2006-09-06T12:53:16

Wall Street squeezed out a small gain Tuesday, as traders got back to work from a three-day break to find oil prices retreating but little other data to guide them.

Major Market Indices

The major indexes, which all built on three-month highs, were again subject to low volume that isn’t expected to return to normal until later in the week. Investors were largely adjusting their positions while they await the Federal Reserve’s next meeting on interest rates, scheduled for Sept. 20.

With little economic news this week, investors are likely to make few moves until they have more signals about the economy’s health. Recent reports, including housing and job claims, have indicated the economy is moderating enough to ward off future Fed rate hikes.

“We’re probably going to be within a tight trading range until we start to get some indication from companies about how the quarter is looking,” said Peter Schofield, a portfolio manager with Knott Capital. “There’s nothing clearly on the horizon, besides the Fed meeting, that could cause a big swing on the market.”

In the meantime, corporate news and oil prices are expected to be the main market drivers. Among the biggest gainers Tuesday were oil companies after the discovery of a major new oil source in the Gulf of Mexico by Chevron Corp. and its partners .

The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 5.13 points, or 0.04 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index added 2.24 points, or 0.17 percent. The technology-loaded Nasdaq composite index gained 12.54 points, or 0.57 percent.

Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.78 percent from Friday’s five-month low of 4.73 percent. The dollar was off against most major currencies, while gold moved higher.

Oil prices, which fell below $70 per barrel last week, lent some support to stocks. Prices have weakened as Tropical Storm Ernesto missed the Gulf of Mexico, and a possible confrontation with Iran over its nuclear ambitions seemed less likely.

The price of crude fell 59 cents to $68.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, skidding in part after Chevron announced a discovery it hopes will boost U.S. oil and gas reserves by as much as 50 percent. Chevron led the oil sector higher, rising $1.51, or 2.3 percent, to $66.34.

Chevron controls a 50 percent stake in the oil field. Partners Devon Energy Corp. rose $7.99, or 12.5 percent, to $72.14, while Statoil ASA rose 66 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $28.17.

Housing stocks, which have been hovering near 52-week lows, were mostly flat after a report indicated U.S. home prices increased in the second quarter but showed the biggest slowdown in three decades. The data was released by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, the agency that oversees mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. rose 2 cents to $26.67, just off its yearly low of $24.79 and well below the $61.71 high. The homebuilder reports third-quarter results on Wednesday.

Intel Corp. added 11 cents to $19.99 ahead of its announcement after the closing bell it will cut 9,500 jobs to eliminate $2 billion in costs by 2007.

Investors were uneasy about media and entertainment company Viacom Inc. after it said Tom Freston had resigned as president and chief executive . Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone said his company’s board ousted Freston because it wanted to see its share price trade higher, and hoped the media conglomerate would be more aggressive about acquisitions. Shares sank $2.08, or 5.6 percent, to $34.89.

Also hanging over the market was copper producer Phelps Dodge Corp.’s announcement it would cancel a planned $17.4 billion combination with Inco Ltd. after it appeared Inco shareholders would reject the deal.

Phelps Dodge added $2.73, or 3 percent, to $93.48. The company said it received a $125 million termination fee from Inco, whose shares fell 58 cents to $77.12.

Dow industrial Caterpillar Inc. advanced $2.41, or 3.6 percent, to $69.68 after the heavy equipment maker said it plans to raise prices in 2007. The increase is expected to be as much as 7 percent.

Advancing issues narrowly outnumbered decliners by more than a 4 to 3 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where final consolidated volume came to 2.17 billion shares, compared to 1.86 billion traded at the same point Friday.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed up 0.17 percent. At the close, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.08 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.43 percent and France’s CAC-40 was shed 0.58 percent.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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