Wall Street mixed on global economic woes
NEW YORK » Wall Street finished mixed in fickle trading yesterday, with investors unsettled about the economy ahead of tomorrow's employment report and only somewhat relieved about sliding commodities prices.
The U.S. Commerce Department gave the market just modest comfort when it said orders for manufactured products rose by 1.3 percent in July. The figure was higher than the 0.8 percent predicted by economists polled by Thomson Financial/IFR; the department also upwardly revised its June reading to an increase of 2.1 percent.
However, many traders brushed off the report as old news, given that it is now September. With automakers releasing sluggish August sales and the Federal Reserve reporting weak economic activity throughout the nation, investors proceeded cautiously.
Anxiety about the U.S. Labor Department's August jobs report, due tomorrow, also prevented many investors from making any major commitments.
Light, sweet crude futures ended the day down 36 cents at $109.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.96, or 0.14 percent, to 11,532.88, after rising by as many as 37 points and falling by as many as 100.
Broader stock indicators slipped. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.60, or 0.20 percent, to 1,274.98, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 15.51, or 0.66 percent, to 2,333.73.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.40, or 0.46 percent, to 741.91.
Advancing issues outnumbered advancers by about 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.21 billion shares.
Bond prices moved higher yesterday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.70 percent from 3.74 percent in late trading on Tuesday.
The dollar rose against the euro and pound, but weakened against the yen.
One bright spot in the market yesterday was the troubled financial sector, which drew some bargain hunters thanks to positive news on a few big names: Ambac Financial Group Inc., Freddie Mac and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
Ambac rose $1.58, or 22.4 percent, to $8.65 after Wisconsin insurance regulators late Tuesday approved the bond insurer's plans for a new insurance subsidiary.
Freddie Mac rose 20 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $5.38, after selling $4 billion in debt this week. The prices at which the company sold the debt indicated that investors' fears about the government-sponsored mortgage finance company, while still high, have eased a bit since last month.
And Lehman Brothers rose 81 cents, or 5 percent, to $16.94 amid ongoing speculation that the investment bank is in talks to sell a 25 percent stake in itself to a Korean bank.