Updated from 4:15 p.m. EDT
Stocks on Wall Street had an erratic day, trading in and out of positive territory amid a downturn in oil prices and lingering worries about the financial sector, before finally settling in the green.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 68.88 points, or 0.6%, to 11,417.43, and the
added 7.85 points, or 0.6%, at 1274.54. The
tacked on 4.72 points, or 0.2%, to 2389.08.
At the open, the market crept to the upside but quickly lost momentum. However, stocks spent most of their time with gains following a pullback in crude-oil prices. That came after the Energy Department said crude inventories for the week ended Aug. 16 climbed by 9.4 million barrels, a much larger increase than expected by analysts.
Oil prices had been near $116 a barrel earlier, but following the data settled up 67 cents at $115.20 a barrel.
Technology shares got support from PC maker and Dow component
, whose third-quarter earnings beat Wall Street's estimates for both the top and bottom line. Shares jumped 5.7% to $46.16.
posted a profit that rose year over year and beat analyst expectations. Less fortunate among tech companies,
reported earnings that lagged estimates. Despite the beat, Analog Devices tumbled 8.9% to $29.29. Novatel plummeted 25% to $6.29.
In the financial sector, mortgage financier
( FRE) had difficulties auctioning off $3 billion in its debt, prompting uncertainty about its ability to avoid a bailout by the government.
Queasiness over the fate of the government-sponsored entity and its sister company,
( FNM), contributed to losses for the major indices on Monday and Tuesday. Both were again a drag for the market Wednesday, as Fannie dropped 27% to $4.40 and Freddie lost 22% to $3.25.
New York Post
reported that brokerage
( LEH), similarly harried by its exposure to the credit crisis, failed to come through with a $5 billion capital injection from South Korean institutions.
In spite of the news, reports that the firm would sell all or part of its asset-management business and lowered earnings estimates from Goldman Sachs, Lehman shares traded higher by 5.1% to $13.73.
Goldman also cut its earnings outlook on
( MER) and
Citigroup nonetheless ended the day up 1.8% to $17.49. JPMorgan climbed 4% to $37, and Merrill added 2.5% to $24.41. Morgan Stanley dropped 1.8% to $37.40.
Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer at Oaktree Asset Management wrote in an email that ongoing problems in the credit markets, high commodity prices and a weak jobs market continue to weigh down stocks. Last week's rally in the major indices was a bear-market bounce, he wrote.
"As investors begin to refocus their attention back to the root cause of lower commodity prices, namely slowing worldwide economic growth and high inflation, I expect the recent rally will run out of stream."
In terms of economic data, the Mortgage Bankers Association released a report indicating that mortgage applications were near a five-year low for the week ended Aug. 15. The MBA purchase index fell to 314 from 315.2 a week ago.
Longer-term U.S. Treasury prices were rising slightly. The 10-year was gaining 8/32 to yield 3.8%, and the 30-year was up 10/32, yielding 4.44%. The dollar was rallying against its major foreign competitors. Gold lost 50 cents to close at $816.30.
Exchanges worldwide were mixed. The FTSE in London, the DAX in Frankfurt and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong were higher, while the Nikkei in Japan edged slightly downward.
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