Wall Street took a respite today after two weeks of volatile trading, dipping lower as investors awaited a Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.
Analysts attributed the muted reaction to investors’ acceptance that the economy will stay weak for a while, as well as their reluctance to make any big moves until more is known about the US response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 11.00 at 8,836.56, losing some ground from Friday’s 166-point gain and the index’s 611-point rebound last week.
Broader stock indicators also were lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 2.45 to 1,038.49, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 18.71, closing at 1,480.09.
‘‘What the market is reacting to is a growing sense that this is going to be a long haul. The terrorism campaign will take a long time and our lives are going to be altered to a great degree and not in a way that is bullish,’’ said Charles Pradilla, chief investment strategist at SG Cowen Securities.
Investors showed little alarm early in the session at new National Association of Purchasing Management data showing manufacturing activity continues to suffer.
Although the NAPM found that the manufacturing sector contracted in September for the 14th consecutive month, the results were slightly better than expected.
The NAPM index reading of 47 was above the 45 most analysts had predicted, but it still fell below 50 the level considered an indication that manufacturing activity is shrinking, rather than growing.
Tech stocks recorded the most notable losses. Hewlett-Packard fell 45 cents to dlrs 15.60, while Intel dropped 44 cents to dlrs 19.95.
Blue chips were more mixed. ExxonMobil declined 31 cents to dlrs 39.09, while manufacturer 3M dropped dlrs 1.54 to dlrs 96.86.
Financial stocks fared better, including Citigroup, which rose dlrs 1.25 to dlrs 41.75.
Some losses were expected, given how turbulent trading has been in recent weeks. Stocks dropped precipitously when trading resumed after the attacks, but even before then, the market was losing ground on worries that a business turnaround might not occur before 2002.
Although stocks rebounded last week, they were expected to continue to be weak as investors took profits and shied away from any big commitments. Third-quarter earnings reports, due out this month, are expected to add to the volatility.
Even the possibility of the ninth interest rate cut of the year at tomorrow’s Federal Reserve meeting is expected to do little to cheer Wall Street. Instead, investors are more likely to focus on what the Fed says about the economy’s current health and future prospects.
Also today, the Commerce Department reported consumer spending increased by 0.2% in August, slightly below analyst expectations.
The data predates the terrorist attacks, but is still viewed as a harbinger of what might come in the months ahead.
Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy and many fear that consumers, scared by the attacks and worried about the future, will spend less.
Declining issues led advancers 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to a quiet 1.12 billion shares, compared with 1.64 billion on Friday.
The Russell 2000 index fell 7.28 to 397.59.