updated 9/16/2005 9:06:41 AM ET 2005-09-16T13:06:41

Stocks closed Thursday’s seesaw session narrowly mixed, as investors wondered whether a welter of weak economic data would end the Federal Reserve’s year-long streak of interest rate hikes.

Major Market Indices

Investors were displeased when the Philadelphia Federal Reserve reported a decline in almost every broad indicator it uses to measure the health of its region’s manufacturing. The readings “suggest little to no growth this month,” the report said.

The Labor Department reported lower-than-expected inflation data , but gasoline prices jumped by the largest amount in 2½ years and unemployment filings spiked. Roughly 68,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week due to Hurricane Katrina , the largest increase in nearly a decade.

Traders hope signs of a weakening economy will cause the Federal Reserve to curb its year-plus streak of interest rate hikes when the central bank’s Open Market Committee meets next Tuesday.

“A lot of investors are in a wait-and-see mode until we get the Fed behind us next Tuesday,” said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. “There’s a real split between those who think the Fed will and should take a break and those who think it will continue” incremental rate hikes.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 13.85 points, or 0.1 percent, at the close, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up a fraction of a point. But the Nasdaq composite index, full of technology stocks, gave up 3.18 points, or 0.2 percent.

In company news, both Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday , as expected. The carriers have been hurt by high fuel prices and labor problems. Delta rose 4 cents to 75 cents a share and Northwest fell 99 cents to 88 cents a share. The New York Stock Exchange is studying whether Delta should continue to be listed on the exchange.

Investment bank Bear Stearns Cos. fell $2.60 to $102.90 after its third-quarter profit swelled 34 percent to easily beat Wall Street’s targets but its revenue from the company’s core bond segment declined slightly.

Google Inc. fell 38 cents to $302.62 after it said it would offer $4.18 billion in stock at $295 a share . The increase came despite the fact that the new offering will dilute current shareholders’ value and the company has not specified how it will use the money.

Time Warner Inc. rose 58 cents to $18.50 on a New York Post report that it was in talks with Microsoft Corp.’s Web unit , MSN, to sell a stake in America Online.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.19 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.68 percent, Germany’s DAX index was down 0.11 percent, and France’s CAC-40 was up 0.20 percent.

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