Stocks Up Slightly as Oil Stabilizes

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were mostly flat in early trading Tuesday, helped by a stabilization in oil prices. Chipotle Mexican Grill fell on more worries about the safety of its food.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,280 as of 10:12 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,023 and the Nasdaq composite rose four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,974.

PRE-HOLIDAY DOLDRUMS: 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 U.S. Federal Reserve to raise rates and by the European Central Bank to increase its stimulus efforts.

"Today appears to be providing confirmation that unpredictability, inconsistency and choppiness will likely dominate the festive period amid lower volumes," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.

At this point, many fund managers and traders have closed their books for 2015. The holiday-shortened weeks of Christmas and New Year's also are contributing to lower trading volumes.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil futures were up three cents to $35.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 17 cents to $36.17 a barrel in London. Energy stockswere among the bigger gainers in early trading Tuesday, with the energy sector of the S&P 500 index up roughly 0.7 percent.

FOOD WORRIES: Chipotle Mexican Grill fell $21.01, or 4 percent, to $501.26 after the fast food chain disclosed additional cases of E. coli had occurred at its restaurants.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0969 from $1.0926 in the previous day's trading. The dollar slipped to 120.91 yen from 121.04 yen. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.21 percent from 2.19 percent the day before.