Wall Street ended a temperamental session modestly higher today, as investors took positions in energy and materials sectors but remained...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street ended a temperamental session modestly higher today, as investors took positions in energy and materials sectors but remained cautious about beleaguered financial stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.19 to close at 11,268.92.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 34 cents to close at $26.44 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell $2.31 to $61.71 after the Pentagon announced that a decision on the highly contested Air Force refueling tanker would be put off until the next presidential administration. Boeing shares were the biggest drag on the Dow.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 7.53 to 1,232.04, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 18.89 to 2,228.70.

On Tuesday, the Dow fell 2.4 percent, essentially erasing big gains logged Monday, while the S&P 500 fell 3.4 percent and the Nasdaq composite index lost 2.6 percent.

The weakness in financial stocks comes after Lehman Brothers said it plans to sell a majority stake in its investment management business and spin off its troubled mortgage assets.

The market’s gains come a day after unease about Lehman touched off widespread selling on worries that the No. 4 U.S. securities company had few options to raise capital.

The struggling investment bank said today it is trying to hammer out an agreement to sell a majority stake in its prized investment-management arm and spin off a real-estate unit.

Lehman shares fell 54 cents, or 7 percent, to close at $7.25 a share. Earlier in the session it rose as high as $9.25. Lehman shares tumbled 45 percent Tuesday.

“They’re trying to buy time but it’s very dangerous on Wall Street to buy time. You need to be able to do business,” Axel Merk, portfolio manager at Merk Funds, said of Lehman’s plans. “I don’t think we’re at the end of the financial problems in the markets.”

Seattle-based Washington Mutual fell 98 cents, or nearly 30 percent, to $2.32 after credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services reduced its outlook on the company. On Monday, the largest U.S. thrift replaced longtime CEO Kerry Killinger with Wall Street veteran Alan Fishman following months of staggering under the weight of billions of dollars in high-risk home loans it made during the now-collapsed housing boom.

Bond prices fell after a run-up Tuesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.64 percent from 3.59 percent late Tuesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Oil fell in fractious trading as strength in the dollar and indications of a weakening economy overshadowed OPEC’s decision to cut back excess production. Light, sweet crude fell 6 cents to $103.20 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wall Street has grappled with intractable worries about the financial sector since the near-collapse and subsequent sale of Bear Stearns in March. Banks such as Lehman have struggled in the past year with unwieldy amounts of mortgage-backed securities and other risky investments on their books that have plunged in value.

Many Wall Street observers contend the stock market will not be able to carve out a sustained recovery until investors can determine the scale of losses in the financial sector. Global banks have written off more than $300 billion in bad investments.

“There’s always hope every time one of these shoes drops that it’s the last shoe, and that lasts for a day,” said Ron Kiddoo, chief investment officer at Cozad Asset Management, pointing to Wall Street’s about-face Tuesday when relief over a government bailout of mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave way to fresh worries over Lehman.

“You get the feeling that they don’t really all know where the problems are,” he said. “We need a quarter with these financial companies where they’re not doing all these big write-offs.”

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.4 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.9 percent, Germany’s DAX index declined 0.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.2 percent.