Tech stocks move up on Dell's results
NEW YORK » Mixed signals about Americans' buying power ahead of the holiday shopping season left stocks little changed yesterday, although strong earnings from Dell Inc. sent tech stocks climbing.
Dell's results suggested to investors that demand for computers is high, but a dip in the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey made some on Wall Street wary that people might be more careful about spending as holiday shopping begins. The damage from the survey was muted, however, by falling oil prices.
After several weeks of record highs in the Dow Jones industrials, due largely to cheaper oil, big acquisitions and strong company earnings, any signs of sagging consumer spending during the holidays could be the stock market's wake-up call to a slowing economy. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic growth.
"These stocks have had such strong moves -- if you hear of any kind of weakness, that (retail) sales weren't as good as anticipated, I think the stocks will get hit a bit here," said Prudential Equity Group strategist Steven DeSanctis.
The Dow rose 5.36, or 0.04 percent, to 12,326.95, after slipping from a new trading high of 12,361 earlier.
Broader stock indicators were also higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up 3.28, or 0.23 percent, at 1,406.09, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 11.14, or 0.45 percent, at 2,465.98.
Wall Street has slowed its upward climb this week in light pre-Thanksgiving trading volume. U.S. stock markets are closed today for Thanksgiving, and will open tomorrow for an abbreviated session.
The Michigan index of consumer sentiment fell to 92.1 this month from October's 93.6. The reading was higher than the average over the last five months, but below analysts' expectations.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department's jobless claims data raised concerns that Americans' shopping resolve might weaken going into the holidays if they're worried about job security. The department said new applications for unemployment benefits last week rose by a seasonally adjusted 12,000 to 321,000. The more stable four-week moving average of claims, while high, is about the same as a year ago.
Light sweet crude fell 93 cents to settle at $59.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after the government said in its weekly petroleum inventory report that U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.1 million barrels. Gasoline inventories also rose, while distillate inventories, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, fell.