Wall Street advanced in uneven trading today after a drop in oil prices and an unexpected gain in new-home sales encouraged investors to...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street advanced in uneven trading today after a drop in oil prices and an unexpected gain in new-home sales encouraged investors to put money back into the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 68.72 to 12,548.35.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, advanced 39 cents to close at $28.44 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained $1.30 to $82.78.

Broader stock indicators were also higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.42 to 1,385.35; the Nasdaq composite index rose 36.57 to 2,481.24.

Stocks picked up momentum late in the session as oil prices drifted below $129 a barrel. This helped to ease investor concerns about the effect of soaring energy and food prices on consumers, who account for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

With gas prices up sharply from a year ago, many on Wall Street are worried that nervous consumers will stop reaching into their wallets for discretionary purchases. That was confirmed by fresh data from the Conference Board, which said its consumer confidence index dropped for the fifth straight month and is now at its lowest level since October 1992.

Investors were also somewhat reassured after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted rate of 526,000 units. In March, sales had fallen 11 percent to their weakest pace since 1991.

The three major stock indexes traded with uncertainty through most of the session, and showed investors remained hesitant to place big bets. Many on Wall Street believe there is still plenty to be cautious about.

“You have a problematic scenario: falling home prices, rising food and energy prices, the credit crunch, and the labor market isn’t doing that well,” said Stephen Carl, principal and head of equity trading at The Williams Capital Group. “We’re going through this period right now, and it’s going to take some time to come out of it.”