By ELLEN SIMON | March 15, 2006 12:58 PM CST
U.S. Stocks Mostly Higher
U.S. Stocks Mostly Higher
Stocks edged mostly higher in seesaw trading Wednesday, as the industrials and materials sectors rose after a strong manufacturing report from the New York Federal Reserve and an upbeat outlook from DuPont Co.
Stocks traded in a narrow range following Tuesday's gains, which is typical of the market's pattern for the year. The Standard & Poor's 500, for instance, has been unable to climb more than a fraction higher than 1,297 since November.
"No one is willing to make a big bet two days in a row," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. "That's typical of the year: We've had a lot of great days, but no follow-through."
The Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite index inched higher in choppy trading following the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State index, which came in much stronger than expected, with the highest reading since July 2004. The survey, which measures the conditions for New York state manufacturers, is seen as a good predictor of the Institute for Supply Management's national manufacturing survey. The Empire State index rose to 31.2 in March from 21.0 in February.
In afternoon trading, the Dow rose 18.17, or 0.16 percent, to 11,169.51. The Dow rose 75.32, or 0.68 percent, Tuesday, and surged 104 points on Friday.
Broader stock indicators were slightly higher. The S&P 500 index rose 0.69, or 0.05 percent, to 1,298.17, and the Nasdaq rose 6.11, or 0.27 percent, to 2,302.01.
Bond prices fell, pushing the yield on the 10-year bond higher after a sharp drop Tuesday. Yield on the 10-year rose to 4.74 percent from 4.69 percent late Tuesday.
The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices were higher.
Crude oil futures fell. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $62.60, down 50 cents, in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In other economic news, the Federal Reserve's beige book, a compilation of economic reports from the Fed's 12 district banks, said that economic activity continued to expand in January and February. Most of the Fed district banks characterized the pace of expansion as "moderate or steady."
Separately, a national survey of import prices showed they had fallen 0.5 percent in February, while export prices were unchanged, indicating that inflation pressures are contained.
Meanwhile, the housing market continued to show signs it was cooling. The National Association of Home Builders index for sales of new, single-family homes fell to 55 in March from 56 in February, the fourth month it has hovered in a two-point range. The index was based on a survey of 368 home builders. When the index is over 50, it means the number of buyers who see "good" sales outnumber the number who see "poor" sales.
In company news, chemicals maker DuPont rose $1.24 to $43.16 after it raised its earnings outlook for 2006. The company also said it plans to cut 1,500 jobs and close four facilities in Europe as it restructures its performance coatings business.
Investors shrugged off record profits from Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which paled in comparison to a blow-out quarterly report Tuesday from investment firm rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which sent the market sharply higher. Lehman fell $1.18 to $144.12; Goldman fell 28 cents to $149.14 after rising 6.2 percent Tuesday.
Goldman's earnings, "set the bar too high for the group," Hogan said.
General Motors Corp. is considering a bid of $12.5 billion to $13 billion for a majority stake in its financing arm from a group led by New York private-equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts and some banks, The Wall Street Journal reported. GM rose 4 cents to $21.18.
Sears Holdings Corp., the retailing company formed last year when Kmart bought Sears, rose $13.83 to $131.10 after its fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled due to the addition of Sears' results, beating expectations.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.69, or 0.5 percent, to 739.79.
Advancing issues led decliners by more than 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was 993.62 million, up from 965.46 million at the same time Tuesday.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.50 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.24 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 0.47 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.21 percent.
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