Wall Street ended mixed Tuesday as concerns about the path of Hurricane Gustav sent oil prices higher and offset a better-than-expected...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street ended mixed Tuesday as concerns about the path of Hurricane Gustav sent oil prices higher and offset a better-than-expected reading on consumer confidence. Comments from the Federal Reserve about rising inflation added to the market’s uneasiness.

The Dow Jones industrials rose 26.62 to 11,412.87. The blue-chip index crossed in and out of positive territory throughout the session.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, dropped 39 cents to close at $27.27 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, sank 61 cents to $63.46.

Broader indexes were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 4.67 to 1,271.51; the Nasdaq composite fell 3.62 to 2,361.97.

The Fed’s release of minutes from its Aug. 5 meeting showed that the central bank remains concerned about creeping inflation and that it expected it would need to raise interest rates to try to contain rising prices.

At that meeting, policymakers held rates steady because “American businesses and consumers were facing elevated borrowing costs and reduced credit availability.” However, the Fed also said it was far from clear when a rate hike might come.

There was some optimism at the start of the day on the Street after the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose to 56.9 from a revised 51.9 in July; analysts had expected a reading of 53. That marked the second month in a row that sentiment improved, after a six-month slide since January.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that new-home sales rose 2.4 percent in July. While analysts expected a drop in sales, the July increase followed a sharp downward revision to June’s sales.

However, concerns that Gustav would hit installations in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days sent energy prices higher. A barrel of light, sweet crude ended the day up $1.16 to settle at $116.27 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“The overall mood is still one of caution; there’s not much out there to get investors excited,” said Todd Salamone, director of trading at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “But, the bigger picture is that there hasn’t really been a major breakdown considering all the bad headlines out there, from higher oil prices to the credit crisis and troubled housing sector.”

Alexander Paris, an economist and market analyst for Chicago-based Barrington Research, said investors continue to be fixated on a few key issues that have rattled the markets this month. The biggest concerns continue to be the “direction of oil prices and the credit markets,” he said.

“The market continues to question the same things, and we’re not really getting any answers,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why people are staying on the sidelines.”

Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac climbed for a second day amid growing expectations that the mortgage financiers will be able to weather the housing storm without a government rescue. Fannie shares rose 8.3 percent; while Freddie soared 21 percent.