Wall Street finished an uninspired session mixed yesterday as a new record high in oil prices was partly offset by a better-than-expected...
NEW YORK — Wall Street finished an uninspired session mixed yesterday as a new record high in oil prices was partly offset by a better-than-expected reading of the nation’s industrial activity and strong sales at Wal-Mart.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.76 to 10,623.15.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, gained 31 cents to close at $25.92 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 26 cents to $65.75.
Meanwhile, the broader stock indicators moved higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 1.17 at 1,235.35, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 10.55 to 2,195.38.
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The stock market remained resilient in the face of record intraday and closing prices for oil. A barrel of light crude reached an intraday high of $62.30 before closing at $61.57, up $1, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The death of Saudi King Fahd was cited as creating uncertainty in the oil market.
The surge in oil prices was mitigated by upbeat July sales at Wal-Mart as well as a bullish reading of the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index — showing that both the consumer and industrial sectors have adapted well to high energy costs. However, the strong growth in the economy raised concerns about the Federal Reserve and its policy of gradually raising the nation’s benchmark rate.
“What it’s [economic data] also doing is telling investors that the Fed is not done as quickly as people were thinking two months ago,” said Russ Koesterich, senior portfolio manager at Barclays Global Investments in San Francisco. “That’s creating a little bit of headwind for stocks.”
Investors were encouraged by a surprising gain in the ISM’s manufacturing index for July. The index rose to 56.6, better than the 54.5 economists forecast and higher than June’s 53.8 reading.
Yet while the ISM figures showed a robust growth rate for the industrial sector, the breadth and depth of July’s rally had many investors hedging their bets on whether it could continue through August. The Dow gained 3.56 percent for the month, while the S&P rose 3.6 percent and the Nasdaq surged 6.22 percent.
“Any time you have runs like these, people are always going to get jittery,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader at vFinance Investments. “But to take healthy pauses here and there — there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Wal-Mart rose 18 cents to $49.53 as the retailer reported a 4.4 percent increase in sales from stores open at least a year, another strong sign of consumer spending.