Wall Street zigzags at start of quarter
NEW YORK » Wall Street began the third quarter with an erratic session and modest gain yesterday after a mix of news made it clear the country is still deep in economic problems but may have some positive trends -- including some better than expected sales for General Motors Corp.
Prices rose early in the session, then turned sharply lower for much of the day and then recovered in late afternoon. The uneven performance wasn't surprising -- some bargain hunting was to be expected after a dismal first half, and in particular, a dismal June.
And while the Institute for Supply Management had an overall disappointing report on manufacturing in June, it also reported strong exports for U.S. factories.
"This market is craving anything positive," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. He said because the market has sold off so much in recent days, traders took GM's sales as a buying opportunity.
Investors might get more direction in upcoming economic reports like tomorrow's June employment numbers.
The Dow Jones industrial average, down more than 150 points earlier, rose 32.25, or 0.28 percent, to 11,382.26, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.91, or 0.38 percent, to 1,284.91. The Nasdaq composite gained 11.99, or 0.52 percent, to 2,304.97.
Oil settled at a record $140.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after rising above $143 a barrel earlier as worries about tight supply and mounting tensions in the Middle East continued.
"It feels like we continue to stretch and stretch until something snaps, and that will continue to happen until we do something about oil," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.
Bonds also bounced up and down as investors pulled money out of stocks, seeking the safety of government debt, and then changed their minds. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.01 percent from late Monday's 3.98 percent.
Declining issues led advancers by just under a 2 to 1 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 5.75 billion shares, up from Monday's 4.91 billion.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 1.93, or 0.28 percent, to 691.59.
Ford fell 10 cents to $4.71, and hit a multiyear low of $4.41 during the session, after the automaker reported that sales declined by a weaker-than-expected 28 percent in June. However, GM rose 25 cents to $11.75 after it reported sales rose well above expectations.
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. shares rose $1.15, or 5.8 percent, to $20.96 after a steep decline on Monday. The nation's fourth-largest investment bank had been the target of rumors that it might sell itself to Britain's Barclays PLC at a discount price.