Wall Street pulled off its lows to finished narrowly mixed today as investors squared concerns about rising oil prices with a surprise jump...
NEW YORK — Wall Street pulled off its lows to finished narrowly mixed today as investors squared concerns about rising oil prices with a surprise jump in home construction. The major indexes ended the week with big gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 5.86 to 12,986.80.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 46 cents to close at $29.99 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, ended down 38 cents at $85.17.
Broader stock indicators ended mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ticked up 1.78 to 1,425.35, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 4.88 to 2,528.85.
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Wall Street, hoping for an economic rebound in the second half of the year, has been searching for any signs that the housing market is bottoming. The Commerce Department’s report that home construction jumped 8.2 percent in April came as welcome news.
But investors still appeared concerned for much of the session about energy prices and their effect on consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. The price of a barrel of oil spiked to $127.82 today for a trading record.
The rise in energy and food costs is weighing on the mood of consumers. The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading for May fell to 59.5 in May — the weakest reading since June 1980.
Housing construction rose by 8.2 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million units, the Commerce report said. Building of single-family homes continued to weaken, however. The growth came from a big jump in apartment construction.
Analysts predicted the surprising rebound in April would be temporary given the headwinds builders are still confronting, from slumping sales to soaring home foreclosures.
The uneasiness over energy prices follows a strong advance in stocks that left the broader market up 2.5 percent for the week.
The rise in oil upended some of the week’s optimism that led investors to move into cyclical stocks that typically benefit when an economy begins to emerge from a slowdown, said Steve Neimeth, portfolio manager for AIG SunAmerica Mutual Funds.
“Although the housing numbers today were generally positive, the Michigan survey was quite poor and, more importantly, a continued spike in energy and commodities is causing investors to second-guess the second-half recovery,” Neimeth said. “If oil and gas prices continue to go up consumers are unlikely to have the spending ability in the second half.”