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Oil Decline Perks Up Dow

The S&P and the Nasdaq close little changed.

Updated from 4:14 p.m. EDT

A slide in crude futures helped the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

overcome a pair of cooler-than-expected economic reports and move toward 13,000 Tuesday, but the index ultimately came up short.

When trading ended, the Dow had a gain of 34.54 points, or 0.27%, at 12,953.94. The index fell as many as 18 points before rising briefly to a record intraday high of 12,989.86.

Even so, only 14 of the blue-chip measure's 30 components were in positive territory, led by a rise of 3.5% in


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S&P 500

and the

Nasdaq Composite

had rocky sessions and closed little changed. The S&P slipped 0.52 point, or 0.04%, to 1480.41, and the Nasdaq tacked on 0.87 point, or 0.03%, to 2524.54.

Partly responsible for the Dow's advance was a selloff in oil. The new front-month June contract pierced the $66 level for a time but reversed ground and finished lower by $1.31 at $64.58 a barrel. Other energy prices were mixed.

On the

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New York Stock Exchange

, about 3.06 billion shares changed hands, and decliners edged advancers by a 9-to-7 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 2.25 billion shares, with losers outpacing winners 8 to 7.

Among subgroup indices, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector Index jumped 2.9%, and the Philadelphia Utility Index rose 0.6%.

On the losing side, the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Sector Index sank 1.3%, the S&P Retail Index eased 0.4%, and the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index was lower by 0.3%.

When the market opened, a number of solid corporate earnings reports led to early gains. However, the buyers headed for the exits after the National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales fell 8.4% in March to 6.12 million annualized units, the largest drop in more than 18 years.

Analysts had been planning on a decline, but only to a 6.50 million pace from 6.69 million in February.

"This looks awful but it is surely just the reversal of the favorable weather effects, which boosted January and February sales," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "In the wake of the subprime blowup, it seems reasonable to expect a higher application-rejection rate and tighter terms."

Meanwhile, another disappointment came when the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to a reading of 104.0 in April, down from 108.2 the previous month. Economists had expected a reading of 105.0.

Treasury prices were higher following the data. The 10-year note climbed 5/32 in price to yield 4.62%, and the 30-year bond added 10/32 to yield 4.80%. The dollar dropped against the yen and the euro.

Among the earnings,


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topped analysts' first-quarter estimates and reaffirmed its full-year guidance, while


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was also better than expected.

DuPont gained 67 cents, or 1.4%, to $49.86. AT&T ended down 67 cents, or 1.7%, to $39.10.

Texas Instruments

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, whose shares rose 7.7% to $34.92 a day after the company lifted its second-quarter projection, wasn't able to provide much support for the tech space.

Also in tech, telecom-equipment maker

Alcatel Lucent


continues to act like its former stand-alone U.S. component, cautioning that it will likely post a first-quarter operating loss on sluggish sales. Still, shares rose 59 cents, or 4.7%, to $13.16.



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reported first-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.55 a share, handily beating the Thomson First Call consensus.

U.S. Steel

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also blew away estimates, but revenue came in below expectations.

Whirlpool jumped 13.8% to close at $102.85, a new 52-week high, but U.S. Steel slumped 3.7% to $103.04.

Away from earnings,


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said first-quarter sales rose 9% from a year ago to 2.35 million vehicles, allowing it, for the moment, to surpass

General Motors

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as the world's biggest carmaker by volume. Toyota lost 98 cents, or 0.8%, to $123.89. GM ended up 10 cents, or 0.3%, to $30.77.

Turning to the day's research reports, A.G. Edwards cut its rating on oil giant

Exxon Mobil

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to hold from buy, in part based on the stock's valuation. Shares edged down 60 cents, or 0.8%, to close at $78.60.

Citigroup upgraded chipmaker



to buy from hold, taking its stock price target to $52 from $44. Shares of SanDisk gained $1.68, or 4%, to $43.54.

Overseas, markets were mixed in Asia, where Tokyo's Nikkei ticked lower by 0.02% to 17,452 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng tacked on 0.08% to 20,573. Europe was generally weaker, with London's FTSE giving back 0.8% to 6429 and Frankfurt's Xetra DAX losing 0.9% at 7270.