US stocks end mixed

Wall Street was narrowly mixed today as lingering concerns about the US economy offset better-than-expected sales from Asda owner Wal-Mart Stores and a flurry of acquisition activity.

Wall Street was narrowly mixed today as lingering concerns about the US economy offset better-than-expected sales from Asda owner Wal-Mart Stores and a flurry of acquisition activity.

Wal-Mart rose after the world’s largest retailer said it expected January same-store sales to rise 2.2%. Tempering the gain was its projection that sales performance was on track to deliver the lowest growth rate in more than 25 years.

Meanwhile, Wall Street absorbed a spate of acquisition and private equity deals - the largest number since the start of the year. Triad Hospitals and Herbalife received offers from private equity funds, while State Street agreed to buy Investors Financial Services.

Investors had little reaction to new data that suggested continued economic growth, which could disrupt the Federal Reserve’s plans to ease the economy this year. The Institute of Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index, which covers the service sector, increased more than analysts were forecasting.

Wall Street is in a holding pattern now that the Fed’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged is behind it, and the quarterly earnings season is largely over. Analysts say investors are now monitoring what central bankers might have to say in speeches and any corporate or economic news to find direction.

“We’re just going to have a topsy-turvy market until investors figure out which direction to take,” said Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading for Cowen & Co. “We’re seeing some buying come back into the market because there still is a lot of money on the sidelines. And, all these deals announced are really helping the market out.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.25, or 0.07%, to 12,661.74.

Broader stock indicators were lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 1.40, or 0.10%, at 1,446.99, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 5.28, or 0.21%, to 2,470.60.

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