Wall Street limps to a mixed finish
NEW YORK » Wall Street limped to a mixed finish yesterday as uncertainty over the situation in the Middle East and a disappointing earnings report from Citigroup gave traders little impetus to buy after last week's selloff.
With violence in Israel and Lebanon continuing into a sixth day and no resolution in sight, the markets remained wary despite a sharp drop in oil prices. A barrel of light crude settled at $75.30, down $1.73, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"Unfortunately, right now this conflict in the Middle East is the elephant in the room, and nothing's going to happen until there's a little more clarity there," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "This is probably a market best viewed from the sidelines."
The U.S. economy continued to show strength, with industrial production rising 0.8 percent in June, according to the Federal Reserve, far better than the 0.4 percent econo-mists expected. That encouraged investors who had feared the economy would have trouble withstanding high energy prices and higher interest rates.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.01, or 0.07 percent, to 10,747.36. The Dow slid 3.17 percent last week.
Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.71, or 0.14 percent, to 1,234.49, and the Nasdaq composite index climbed 0.37, or 0.02 percent, to 2,037.72.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by nearly 9 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 2.24 billion shares, compared with 2.57 billion traded Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 3.55, or 0.52 percent, at 677.69.
While the Fed's overall production data was strong, a report by the New York Federal Reserve showed slower-than-expected manufacturing growth in New York state.
The conflicting manufacturing reports did little for the bond market, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note steady at 5.07 percent from late Friday. The dollar made gains against most major currencies, and gold prices also climbed.
The mix of news and mediocre earnings led to lethargic trading, especially with the consumer price index and producer price index -- two key measures of inflation -- due later in the week along with congressional testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke Wednesday and a slew of major earnings reports.
"There's not much news out today that's really going to push the markets either way, so you're seeing this choppy tape right now," said equity trader Brian Williamson of the Boston Company Asset Management.