A still skittish Wall Street closed modestly lower Thursday, having clawed its way back from an early-session plunge as upbeat manufacturing data allayed fears about a flagging U.S. economy.
NEW YORK (AP) — A still skittish Wall Street closed modestly lower Thursday, having clawed its way back from an early-session plunge as upbeat manufacturing data allayed fears about a flagging U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones industrials ended 34 points lower after tumbling 209 points in early trading and then briefly reaching positive territory in the afternoon.
Investors, relieved that manufacturing is still expanding, bought some of the stocks pummeled in Tuesday’s drop, which sliced 416 points off the Dow. The blue chip index is now down about 400 points, or 3.2 percent, from its closing level Monday, having rebounded halfheartedly Wednesday on calming words about the economy from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The Institute for Supply Management’s index of February manufacturing activity came in at 52.3, stronger than the 50.0 reading analysts expected. The index is an important measure of a part of the economy that has given investors headaches in recent months. Manufacturing had contracted a month earlier, according to the index, suffering from the listless housing market and hard-up auto industry. A reading at 50 and above indicates expansion, while anything below 50 signals contraction.
The ISM data helped the market regain lost ground, but anxiety still plagued the Street, with the indexes bouncing around choppily as many investors bailed out of equities and fled to safe havens like Treasurys, betting that stocks could see a bigger correction.
“The aftermath of Tuesday’s major selloff will linger for the next couple of days. I don’t think we’re totally out of the woods yet,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage house Avalon Partners Inc.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 34.29, or 0.28 percent, to 12,234.34, after dropping as low as 12,056.54 in the first hour of trading. It hasn’t traded at these levels since early December.
Broader stock indicators also ended down after fluctuating in the afternoon. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 3.65, or 0.26 percent, at 1,403.17, after tumbling 26 points earlier in the day.
The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index finished down 11.94, or 0.49 percent, at 2,404.21, following an earlier drop of 56 points.