Stocks meandered to a mixed finish yesterday as higher oil prices pressured the market, but the Standard & Poor's 500 index neared a...

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NEW YORK — Stocks meandered to a mixed finish yesterday as higher oil prices pressured the market, but the Standard & Poor’s 500 index neared a four-year high in a sign of Wall Street’s underlying bullishness.

While there was little news to give the markets a clear direction, the stock market held on to the gains of the past three sessions, which saw the major indexes jump roughly 3 percent.

Strong earnings from PepsiCo Inc. and others helped investors remain positive.

That helped Wall Street withstand another surge in crude futures. Oil prices rose to more than $60 per barrel as traders worried about another active hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $60.62, up $1.70, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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“On balance, things are going well, but the mood is still very, very guarded,” Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors, said of stocks.

The S&P rose 2.77, or 0.23 percent, to 1,222.21, just 3 points shy of its four-year high of 1,225.31, reached March 7. The index briefly surpassed that level before edging back in the last hour of trading.

The other major indexes were mixed. The Nasdaq composite index was up 7.72, or 0.36 percent, at 2,143.15, its best close since Jan. 3, while the Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.83, or 0.06 percent, to 10,513.89. The Dow’s dip was unsurprising given the higher price of oil and the average’s bent toward energy-sensitive industrial companies.

In Northwest stocks on the Dow, Boeing fell 67 cents, closing at $64.30. Microsoft was up 32 cents, closing at $25.61.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 0.95, or 0.14 percent, at 670.79, edging off of its all-time high set Monday.

Analysts were pleased that the stock market did not sell off heavily after the previous sessions’ gains.

“Really, the market is behaving well, just backing and filling after three big days,” said Bryan Piskorowski, market analyst at Wachovia Securities. “What we need now is good economic data and good earnings if we want this rally to keep going.”

Key inflation data from the Labor Department due tomorrow and earnings from conglomerate General Electric on Friday could provide that spark should they exceed Wall Street’s expectations.