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Stocks mixed as GM, oil prices drag on Dow

Stocks closed an erratic session mixed Wednesday, as General Motors Corp. hit an 18-year low, dragging down the Dow Jones industrial average. Rising oil prices also dulled investor enthusiasm.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks closed an erratic session mixed Wednesday as General Motors Corp. hit an 18-year low, dragging down the Dow Jones industrial average. Rising oil prices also dulled investor enthusiasm.

The price of crude oil overshadowed a government report of moderating inflation that initially gave stocks a modest lift. Oil futures settled at $57.88 a barrel, up 90 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a sharp change from the four-month low they reached Tuesday. Wednesday’s government petroleum inventory numbers were weaker then expected.

GM fell as concerns mounted about problems at its top supplier, Delphi Corp. and worries about the company’s ability to turn around its performance. Leaders of the United Auto Workers said the union and Delphi remain far apart on a new labor agreement and fears of a strike have spooked investors.

Broader economic news was more upbeat. The Labor Department reported that consumer prices edged up just 0.2 percent in October, the best showing in four months. In September, consumer prices had soared by 1.2 percent on record energy prices. That inflation increase was the largest one-month jump in 25 years.

Expiring options also spurred selling. “We did get surprising oil inventory data, but it’s still below that $60 range,” said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist, senior vice president and market analyst, S.W. Bach & Co. “The market is running against options expirations, which are causing technical difficulty.”

The Dow fell 11.68, or 0.11 percent, to 10,674.76.

Broader stock indicators were barely higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2.20, or 0.18 percent, to 1,231.21, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.19, or 0.05 percent, to 2,187.93.

Bonds rose sharply as stocks declined, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.47 percent from 4.56 percent late Tuesday. The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies in European trading. Gold prices were higher.

Trading on Wall Street was light, and some analysts said last week’s strong advances came in anticipation of Wednesday’s cheery inflation numbers, leaving little to trade on during the day’s session.

“It’s really a trendless market,” said Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer, Cabot Money Management. Salem, Mass.

General Motors fell $1.32 to $21.29.

American Express Co., a Dow component, fell 85 cents to $50.08 after the financial services company’s chief executive said several analysts are overestimating the company’s fourth-quarter profits based on incorrect assumptions about the firm’s marketing plans, bankruptcy-related writeoffs and spinoff of its brokerage operation.

Caterpillar Inc., also a Dow stock, rose 83 cents to $56.73 after JPMorgan Chase & Co. said its worldwide machine sales continued to be strong in October.

Oracle Corp. fell 18 cents to $12.49 after it said it bought security-software specialists Thor Technologies Inc. and OctetString, continuing an aggressive shopping spree aimed at filling holes in its product lineup. Oracle did not disclose the purchase price of the companies, which would be required if the price were material to Oracle’s finances. Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, bought PeopleSoft Inc. 11 months ago for $11.1 billion and has agreed to buy Siebel Systems Inc. for $5.85 billion early next year.

Too Inc., a clothing retailer aimed at girls age 7 to 14, rose $1.73 to $31.48 after its third-quarter profit climbed 40 percent, which it credited to higher sales and improved merchandise margin. It also forecast fourth-quarter earnings above Wall Street’s target.

Declining issues led advancers by roughly 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume was 2.16 billion shares, down from 2.35 billion at the same time Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 1.59, or 0.24 percent, to 654.64.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.56 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.18 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.57 percent, and France’s CAC-40 was down 0.68 percent.