Dow flirting again with all-time highs
NEW YORK » Stocks closed lower for the second straight session yesterday after the Dow Jones industrial average flirted briefly early in the day with its all-time high close.
After also making an attempt to reach its record intraday trading high of 11,750.28 set in January 2000, the Dow slipped 8.72, or 0.07 percent, to 11,670.35 in light trading. Broader indexes were also lower.
On Thursday, and again yesterday, the Dow rose above its highest-ever closing level of 11,722.98 before retreating. But trading was volatile as some market players were out for the Yom Kippur holiday; traders said that may have weighed on stocks.
The markets largely shrugged off the day's economic data, which presented a mixed picture of the economy. And stocks were helped, at least initially, by falling oil prices. A barrel of light crude settled at $61.03, down $1.88, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices have fallen more than 20 percent since July, helping drive gains in stocks in the third quarter.
"There are a lot of crosscurrents between earnings, the overall condition of the economy and oil prices," Jim Herrick, head of equity trading at Robert W. Baird & Co., said of the market's pullback yesterday.
Despite the Dow's recent climb to near-record territory, Herrick believes the markets will stay tethered around current levels as investors wait for more economic data, such as the government's employment report due Friday, as well as a read on corporate earnings and profit forecasts.
Jon Brorson, head of growth equities at Lehman Brothers Asset Management, points out that the start of a new quarter often brings activity from investors seeking to rebalance their portfolios, though he noted volume was light because of the holiday.
The Institute for Supply Management said the manufacturing sector grew at the slowest pace in more than a year in September amid weaker U.S. auto sales and a cooling of the housing market.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said construction spending in August rose 0.3 percent after falling 1 percent in July. Also weighing in, the National Association of Retailers said pending home sales rose 4.3 percent in August.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.53, or 0.34 percent, to 1,331.32, and the Nasdaq composite index slid 20.83, or 0.92 percent, to 2,237.60.
The economic data follow the strongest quarter for the stock market in about a decade. Investors are eager to find out whether the Federal Reserve still sees inflation as a sizable threat.