Lingering questions leave indexes mixed
NEW YORK » Wall Street's momentum sagged yesterday, leaving the major indexes mixed after investors' enthusiasm over a six-year low in unemployment claims and strong corporate earnings waned in the face of longer-term economic worries.
With lingering questions remaining about the health of the economy, interest rates, oil prices and geopolitics, investors took profits in late trading, focusing on the energy and technology sectors that led the most recent rallies.
"Most companies have already reported their earnings, and I think we're getting to a quiet period where it can be tough to keep anything positive going," said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers. "There's still a lot out there to deal with."
While weekly first-time jobless claims rose slightly, Wall Street was initially encouraged after the Labor Department said the four-week moving average of claims, a strong indicator of the labor market's health, fell to its lowest level since April 2000. Positive earnings reports from Best Buy Co. Inc. and Aetna Inc. also cheered would-be buyers.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 24.73, or 0.23 percent, to 10,883.35 after gaining 108.86 points Wednesday.
Broader stock indicators were lower, however. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.87, or 0.15 percent, to 1,263.78, and the tech-focused Nasdaq composite index dropped 11.11, or 0.49 percent, to 2,255.87.
Bonds reversed direction from the previous session and climbed higher as the first auction of 30-year Treasury bonds since 2001 was generally well received. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 4.54 percent from 4.59 percent late Wednesday.
Crude prices edged higher after the Energy Department reported a drop in U.S. energy stockpiles Wednesday. A barrel of light crude settled at $62.62, up 7 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In earnings news, Best Buy surged $4.13 to $52.96 after the electronics retailer raised its forecast for fourth-quarter earnings beyond analysts' current expectations. Insurer Aetna, which climbed $3.15 to $99.27, and hotel operator Marriott International Inc., which jumped $1.53 to $67.64, posted strong earnings and also increased their 2006 full-year forecasts.
American International Group Inc. gained 74 cents to $67.12 after regulators said AIG will pay $1.64 billion to settle charges of bid-rigging and accounting fraud.
Oracle Corp. climbed 12 cents to $12.69 after the Associated Press reported the company planned to cut 1,000 jobs, with an announcement expected in an afternoon conference call with industry analysts.