Stocks end session mostly higher
Most stocks ended higher Tuesday as a better-than-expected reading on consumer confidence helped offset concerns about Hurricane Gustav, which sent oil prices higher.
The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose for a second consecutive month after falling each of the first six months of the year. The gauge came in at 56.9 in August, up from a revised 51.9 in July. Analysts had expected an August reading of 53.
The Commerce Department reported that new-home sales rose 2.4% in July from June’s level, which was revised sharply downward.
Concerns that Hurricane Gustav would strike installations in the Gulf of Mexico in coming days sent energy prices higher. Crude futures climbed $1.16 to $116.27.
Also adding to the market’s uneasiness, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of this month’s meeting showing that the central bank was concerned about creeping inflation and that it expected to raise interest rates to try to contain rising prices, though it didn’t say when.
“The overall mood is still one of caution,” said Todd Salamone at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “But the bigger picture is that there hasn’t really been a major breakdown considering all the bad headlines out there, from higher oil prices to the credit crisis and troubled housing sector.”
The Dow Jones industrials rose 26.62 points, or 0.2%, to 11,412.87.
Broader indexes were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 4.67 points, or 0.4%, to 1,271.51, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 3.62 points, or 0.2%, to 2,361.97.
The Russell 2,000 index of smaller companies rose 2.97 points, or 0.4%, to 723.51.
Advancing issues beat decliners by about 7 to 4 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was light.
Bonds were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note slipped to 3.77% from 3.79% late Monday. The dollar hit a six-month high against the euro and surged to a 25-month high against the pound. Gold prices advanced.
Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac climbed for a second day on expectations that the mortgage finance companies will be able to survive without a government rescue.
Fannie rose 43 cents, or 8.3%, to $5.62, while Freddie soared 68 cents, or 21%, to $3.97.
In other market highlights:
Rambus jumped $1.24, or 7.6%, to $17.46 after a federal appeals court declined to reconsider an antitrust ruling in the memory chip designer’s favor.
Smithfield Foods fell $1.62, or 6.9%, to $21.91 after the largest U.S. hog producer and pork processor said it had swung to a fiscal first-quarter loss.
Stock indexes rose 0.7% in Germany and 0.3% in France. Shares fell 0.8% in Japan and 0.6% in Britain.