Stocks finish mixed ahead of CPI data
NEW YORK » Wall Street closed narrowly mixed yesterday after investors, uneasy about the government's upcoming inflation data, cashed in some of their gains from the market's months-long rally.
Blue chip stocks managed a modest increase following DaimlerChrysler AG's announcement that it will sell 80.1 percent of money-losing Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private equity group, for $7.4 billion. The deal, which lifted stocks in the automotive sector, undoes a 1998 merger aimed at creating a global auto giant.
The news buoyed the Dow Jones industrial average briefly to a new trading high, but the overall stock market dipped, with many investors wary ahead of today's release of the U.S. Labor Department's Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation.
"People are waiting to get a better read on some of the pricing data," said Jack Caffrey, equities strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "It does seem like there's a bit of a holding pattern."
The market expects the April CPI to have risen 0.5 percent, slower than in March, but it anticipates the core figure -- which strips out food and energy prices -- will have risen 0.2 percent, a slightly larger jump than March's 0.1 percent increase. A report that suggests consumer costs are climbing much faster could frustrate investors hoping for an interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve later in the year.
The Dow advanced 20.56, or 0.15 percent, to 13,346.78, after rising in the morning to a trading record of 13,383.76.
Broader stock indicators fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 2.70, or 0.18 percent, to 1,503.15, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 15.78, or 0.62 percent, to 2,546.44.
Bonds fell slightly, as many investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of today's economic data, which will include the National Association of Home Builders' housing market index. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged up to 4.69 percent from 4.68 percent late Friday.
Yesterday, declining issues outnumbered advancers by 7 to 4 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.39 billion shares, down from 1.41 billion Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 7.21, or 0.87 percent, to 822.33.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
DaimlerChrysler rose $2.12, or 2.6 percent, to $84.12. Other automakers advanced as well, boosted by the Chrysler deal: General Motors, one of the 30 Dow components, rose $1.16, or 3.9 percent, to $30.62. Ford Motor Co. rose 34 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $8.71.
Merger-and-acquisition activity has played a big role in the stock market's surge over the past several months, as investors consider it a good sign that corporate America is faring well amid the nation's economic slowdown.
Today will not only bring inflation and housing reports, but also quarterly financial results -- notably from DaimlerChrysler and Dow components Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc.
Other takeover news yesterday included Cardinal Health's agreement to buy Viasys Healthcare Inc. for $1.42 billion. Viasys rose $11.63, or 36.9 percent, to $43.18, and Cardinal Health rose 12 cents to $69.19.