Stocks finished an uncertain session modestly higher yesterday despite a sharp rise in crude-oil prices and unease over the Federal Reserve's...

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NEW YORK — Stocks finished an uncertain session modestly higher yesterday despite a sharp rise in crude-oil prices and unease over the Federal Reserve’s upcoming meeting.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 59.19 to 10,251.70.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, retreated 7 cents to close at $25.23 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 14 cents to $59.38.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 5.31 at 1,162.16, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 7.00 to 1,928.65.

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Oil futures rallied in afternoon trading, reversing last week’s trend. A barrel of light crude settled at $50.92, up $1.20, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee was expected to raise the nation’s benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point to 3 percent at its meeting today. Many investors waited to see what the central bank would have to say in its economic-assessment statement about the recent slowdown in growth and the prospects for inflation.

“There’s a certain amount of caution which is preventing investors from putting more assets to work,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke. “Right now there are too many question marks about the economy that need to be answered before we can move forward.”

Growth in manufacturing activity declined slightly more than expected in April, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The institute’s manufacturing index came in at 53.3, compared with 55.2 in February. Economists had expected a reading of 55. Any reading above 50 represents growth in activity.

On a better note, construction spending rose 0.5 percent in March, unchanged from the previous month but better than the 0.3 percent economists expected, the Commerce Department said.

With conflicting economic data pointing to a malaise heading into summer, investors will look to the Fed for a more definitive take on the economy’s direction.

“We’ve had a heightened sense of uncertainty about the economy and interest rates, and that led to all the volatility in April,” said Joseph Keating, chief investment officer at AmSouth Asset Management. “I think it would be good for the Fed to acknowledge that these higher oil prices we’ve seen have contributed to the slowdown in the economy, and that inflation remains in check.”