US stocks hold at record levels

U.S. stocks held at record levels on Tuesday as investors digested the most recent economic news and third-quarter company earnings.

Keeping score: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose less than a point to 2,038 as of noon Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average rose five points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,619. The Nasdaq composite was flat at 4,651.

Trade hopes: President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. and China have reached an agreement to drop tariffs on a range of technology products including medical devices, global positioning systems, and video game consoles. Obama made the announcement during a meeting with leaders attending an Asia-Pacific economic summit in Beijing.

End of earnings: Most companies in the S&P 500 have now reported their results for the third quarter. Average earnings for companies in the index are projected to have risen 8.9 percent in the period, according to analysts at S&P Capital IQ. At the start of last month earnings were forecast to grow by 6.7 percent.

Housing help: Home builders had another good day after D.R. Horton reported a 38 percent surge in net orders for the fourth quarter. The company’s stock climbed 35 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $23.79. Home builders gained Monday after luxury home builder Toll Brothers reported a jump in revenues.

The quote: Stocks will likely move “sideways to up” for the remainder of the year, said James Liu, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. Earnings “continue to look good,” he said.

While earnings remain strong, the market could face volatility as investors fret about the potential timing of the Federal Reserve’s first increase in interest rates since 2006. “That’s my largest area of concern,” Liu said.

Energy: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 60 cents to $76.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.25 to close at $77.40 a barrel on Monday.