Economic worries keep stocks mixed
NEW YORK » Wall Street closed narrowly mixed yesterday as lingering concerns about the economy offset better-than-expected sales from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and a flurry of acquisition activity.
Wal-Mart rose after the world's largest retailer said it expected January same-store sales to rise 2.2 percent.
Tempering the gain was its projection that sales performance is on track to deliver the lowest growth rate in more than 25 years.
Meanwhile, Wall Street absorbed a spate of acquisition and private equity deals -- the largest amount since the start of the year. Triad Hospitals Inc. and Herbalife Ltd. received offers from private equity funds, while State Street Corp. agreed to buy Investors Financial Services Corp.
Investors had little reaction to new data that suggests continued economic growth, which could disrupt the Federal Reserve's plans to ease the economy this year.
The Institute of Supply Management's non-manufacturing index, which covers the service sector, increased more than analysts were forecasting.
Wall Street is in a holding pattern now that the Fed's decision to hold rates is behind it, and the quarterly earnings season is largely over.
Analysts say investors are now monitoring what central bankers might have to say in upcoming speeches and any corporate or economic news to find direction.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.25, or 0.07 percent, to 12,661.74.
Broader stock indicators were lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 1.40, or 0.10 percent, at 1,446.99, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 5.28, or 0.21 percent, to 2,470.60.
Advancing issues led decliners by 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 2.46 billion shares, compared with 2.55 billion on Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 2.73, or 0.34 percent, at 806.69.
The index surpassed the 800 mark for the first time last week, and hit an intraday high of 810.49 yesterday before paring gains.
Treasuries largely shrugged off the ISM numbers. Bonds rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note down to 4.81 percent from 4.82 percent late Friday.
Also squeezing stocks was a rebound in oil prices to near $60 per gallon as a cold snap hit the Northeast. However, oil reversed course and a barrel of light sweet crude was down 28 cents at $58.74 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices up.
Wal-Mart rose 44 cents to $48.52 after it announced same-store sales, or those from stores open at least a year, topped its prior forecast for a 1 percent to 2 percent gain.