Wall St closes mixed

Wall Street ended an erratic session narrowly mixed today, largely shrugging off a lacklustre sales report from Wal-Mart Stores and news of weak consumer spending last month.

Wall Street ended an erratic session narrowly mixed today, largely shrugging off a lacklustre sales report from Wal-Mart Stores and news of weak consumer spending last month.

The market’s ability to withstand bad news – especially from Wal-Mart, seen by many traders as a barometer of consumer sentiment – illustrates the confidence many investors seem to have in the overall direction of the economy and Wall Street itself.

Nevertheless, it was clear investors were somewhat tentative after Friday’s weaker-than-expected reading of the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the US economy.

Adding to concerns today was the Commerce Department report that consumer spending rose a feeble 0.1% in September, the smallest increase in 10 months. Personal income, however, was up 0.5%.

“Personal spending was less than expected but then personal income was better than expected,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist for AG Edwards & Sons. He said investors would grapple with sometimes negative and seemingly contradictory economic data as they tried to determine whether the economy would pull off a soft landing after the Federal Reserve’s 17 straight interest rate increases that ended in July.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.76, or 0.03%, to 12,086.50 after changing course several times .

Broader stock indicators rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 0.59, or 0.04%, at 1,377.93, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 13.15, or 0.56%, at 2,363.77.

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