Stocks trade mixed as oil prices retreat
NEW YORK » Wall Street started the week with a mixed finish yesterday as investors weighed volatility in oil prices and new hope for the financial sector after Lehman Brothers
Stocks spent much of the session mostly lower after a fresh record for crude oil and a decline in regional manufacturing activity touched off concerns about the ability of the economy to push ahead.
But more buyers turned out following an afternoon retreat in oil. And financials were among the biggest gainers after Lehman offered more insights into its financial well-being.
The day's eventual gains followed worrisome economic news. The New York Federal Reserve Bank's Empire State index indicated that manufacturing activity in New York State continued to weaken in June. The index fell to a negative 8.7 from a negative 3.7 a month earlier. The report is the earliest of several monthly regional snapshots that investors look to for insights on economic activity.
The manufacturing report and an early jump in energy prices fanned worries that rising prices in an already uncertain economy will cause consumers to tamp down spending. A pullback could deal a blow to the economy, as consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
Richard Campagna, managing director at Provident Investment Counsel in Pasadena, Calif., said that in addition to a pullback in oil, the gains in financial stocks helped shore up confidence in the overall market.
"You're finally seeing some stability in the financials," he said. He pointed to Lehman's results: "They gave more information. The fact that they're becoming less leveraged, more transparent -- all that's positive."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 38.27, or 0.31 percent, to 12,269.08 after being down more than 95 points early in the session.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.11, or 0.01 percent, to 1,360.14. The Nasdaq composite index, which contains many technology names, rose 20.28, or 0.83 percent, to 2,474.78.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to a light 3.62 billion shares compared to 4.59 billion on Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 7.13, or 0.97 percent, to 740.74.
Treasury prices fell amid worries that inflation would erode returns. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 4.27 percent in late trading from Friday's 4.26 percent.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Early yesterday, a weak dollar helped drive the price of a barrel oil to a record near $140 while retail gas prices etched a new high of $4.08 a gallon. Light, sweet crude set a trading record of $139.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, before settling down 25 cents at $134.61 as investors responded to a pledge by Saudi Arabia to increase oil production.