Stocks ended an erratic session mixed yesterday as investors weighed slightly higher oil prices against strong earnings from companies including...
NEW YORK — Stocks ended an erratic session mixed yesterday as investors weighed slightly higher oil prices against strong earnings from companies including Verizon Communications and Texas Instruments.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.71 to 10,579.77.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 15 cents to close at $25.54 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 30 cents to $66.35. Broader stock indicators were higher.
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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2.13 to 1,231.16, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 9.25 to 2,175.99.
The major indexes wavered throughout the day as investors tracked fluctuations in crude-oil futures, which settled at $59.20 a barrel, up 20 cents. Rising oil prices, which could lead to lower consumer spending and declining earnings, have shadowed stocks for months and yesterday distracted investors from the current crop of upbeat earnings reports.
Wall Street also reacted strongly to any company news that strayed from expectations. Investors punished chemical maker DuPont because its sales fell below forecasts but bid up defense contractor Lockheed Martin, whose forecast for the year was above expectations.
“The market’s being very selective about who they reward and who they punish,” said Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup. “If a company comes through and literally trounces the numbers, the stock gets a positive reaction. … If it isn’t perfect, they beat them up.”
The stock market isn’t reacting to solid earnings because “there’s much more discounting of risk than there has been in the past; the risk of higher oil prices, the risk of higher interest rates,” said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers, a private-wealth- management firm in Boston. “This has been buffeting the stock market for the better part of a the year.”
Michael Strauss, chief economist at Commonfund, which manages about $34 billion for nonprofit institutions, said, “It doesn’t look like earnings have the huge upside surprise to catapult the market higher. At the same time, the earnings are there, so it’s hard to get any type of sustainable weakness either; hence, the continuation of a very narrow trading range with a slight upside bias.”
Americans’ faith in the economy as measured by The Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index edged lower in July after three months of gains. Lynn Franco, director of the board’s consumer research, said the dip, to 103.2 from June’s reading of 106.2, was “no cause for concern.”