Stocks came off early losses to finish higher today as investors appeared to take in unpleasant signals about the economy with unusual equanimity...

Share story

NEW YORK — Stocks came off early losses to finish higher today as investors appeared to take in unpleasant signals about the economy with unusual equanimity and draw comfort from the notion that the Federal Reserve didn’t appear overly concerned about inflation.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 90.04 to 12,427.26.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, rose 5 cents to close at $28.22 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell $1.37 to $84.

Broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 11.25 to 1,360.03, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 20.90 to 2,327.10.

A rebound in hard-hit stocks of financial companies helped fuel the session’s turnaround, while an upbeat forecast from Hewlett Packard pulled technology issues higher and record prices for oil gave a boost to energy stocks.

Hewlett Packard shares soared $3.49 to close at $47.44.

Stocks began the day lower amid concern about a rise in consumer prices and lackluster readings on home construction. But observers said the economic figures ultimately didn’t prove all that surprising given a recent run-up in oil prices and the well-documented woes of the housing sector.

Investors had already begun to check some of their concerns when minutes from the Fed’s meetings last month indicated the central bank didn’t appear to have sizable unease about inflation. The apparent lack of urgent concern that lower interest rates would foment a rise in prices was perhaps welcome given the latest readings on consumer prices and the rise in oil.

The absence of surprises from the Fed minutes underscored the notion that policymakers will first address the flagging economy and worry later about inflation and allowed investors to perhaps snap up some bargains and focus on upbeat news.

Thomas Lee, equities analyst at JPMorgan, said the Fed’s deliberations indicate the central bank could quickly step in to address inflation should that become necessary but that shoring up the economy would remain its immediate concern.

“It’s a very different Fed. It’s not a Greenspan Fed. Gradualism is out,” Lee said.

Lee said investors were also pleased by some solid corporate news.

“The earnings picture has actually been pretty good,” Lee said. Hewlett Packard “had a solid beat and pretty decent guidance.”