Wall Street eked out a modest gain Monday despite a dearth of economic news and a general lack of interest among stock traders. A flurry of multibillion-dollar merger deals did little to encourage buying as uncertainty over the economy prevailed.
Without any economic reports or corporate earnings to provide insights, investors’ questions about the economy — and whether its slowing growth will be aggravated by high oil prices — went unanswered, leaving many traders on the sidelines.
Wall Street’s concerns overshadowed the latest round of mergers and acquisitions, topped by Washington Mutual Inc.’s planned takeover of Providian Financial Corp. in the financial sector. The light volume and a small ratio between advancing and declining stocks illustrated the market’s malaise.
“There’s just not a lot out there that’s going to push this market around,” said Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Financial Services Group in Philadelphia. “The problem we have here is that there’s just no economic data, nothing out there that will give us anything to really act on.”
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.06, or 0.06 percent, to 10,467.03.
Broader stock indicators closed narrowly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.49, or 0.12 percent, to 1,197.51, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 4.33, or 0.21 percent, to 2,075.76.
Crude oil futures trading has been awash in worry and speculation over the past two weeks, with the latest concern being the advent of the Atlantic hurricane season, which traders fear could hurt refining capacity in the South. Crude oil prices hit a six-week high earlier in the session, but gave back their gains later in the day. A barrel of light crude settled at $54.49, down 54 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The bond market edged higher in late trading, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 3.96 percent from 3.98 percent late Friday. The dollar fell against most major indexes, while gold prices were higher.
Many on Wall Street were waiting for Thursday, when Greenspan was scheduled to testify before Congress on the state of the economy. With investors worried that the economy could slow too quickly, harming corporate profits, Greenspan’s testimony was seen as a possible boon to the market — and investors appeared willing to wait for it.
“You got people taking a longer-term approach, waiting for the Fed. And in the meantime, we’re holding in there, which isn’t bad,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen a healthy pullback after our rally here. We’re just drifting, but I’ll take this over an aggressive selloff any day.”
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by nearly 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.52 billion shares, compared with 1.63 billion traded Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 2.63, or 0.42 percent, at 622.94.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.26 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.38 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.38 percent, and Germany’s Xetra-DAX dropped 0.29 percent.
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