Conflicting signals on inflation kept stocks mixed yesterday as investors abandoned riskier stocks and moved to safer blue-chip companies...

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NEW YORK — Conflicting signals on inflation kept stocks mixed yesterday as investors abandoned riskier stocks and moved to safer blue-chip companies. A sharp drop in oil prices helped limit Wall Street’s losses.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 45.89 to 10,851.51.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 12 cents to close at $25.43 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 23 cents to $57.98.

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Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 2.24 at 1,209.25, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 1.57 to 2,059.72.

A surprising increase in first-time jobless claims unnerved the market but also eased fears among some investors that inflation would rise as more workers enter the job market. The Labor Department reported a jump of 17,000 claims last week, to 327,000 — the highest level in two months.

Inflation worries were bolstered, however, as the dollar fell to a nine-week low against the euro. That stole momentum from crude-oil prices — another inflationary concern — which fell after Wednesday’s sharp rise. A barrel of light crude settled at $53.54, down $1.23, on the New York Mercantile exchange.

“This appears to be a fairly defensive market … while investors figure out what to do next,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “I think the market is still jittery about inflation. There are no real drivers to push us solidly in any direction.”

The technology sector was under scrutiny as investors looked at news from two major semiconductor companies.

Dow component Intel edged a penny higher to $24.85 prior to its mid-quarter earnings update, released after the session.

The company had a better than expected outlook, raising the low end of its first-quarter revenue projection and forecasting wider gross margins. Intel stock rose 43 cents in extended trading.