As investors and traders settled back into their desk chairs after the holiday weekend, stocks moved modestly on still-light volume Tuesday. But they didn't go down, and that is fueling the bullish case.

But a lack of conviction is the hitch in the markets' recent get-along, just as it was the foil for the summer's prior rally attempts. In the data-dependent reality the markets live in these days, the Labor Department's report on productivity and unit labor cost revisions Wednesday could be the turnkey event for the week.

"Oil's down; there's been no disturbing news, but we need more than what we have today to make any broad moves," says Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. "There will be more to react to as the week wears on."

Consensus estimates puts second-quarter productivity up 1.6%, higher than the 1.1% initial estimate that came out last month. The initial estimate upset the market and seemingly prompted the

Federal Reserve

to remove language about productivity strength absorbing inflationary wage pressure from its policy statement.

Indeed, last month's 4.2% initial read on second-quarter unit labor costs stoked the inflationary fires, as it put unit labor costs up 3.2% on a year-over-year basis. Any upward revision to productivity would undo some of the angst about labor inflation.

Absent news on the economic front Tuesday, the markets didn't have a catalyst to move the needle much Tuesday. But the bulls still have the advantage, and the

Nasdaq Composite

fought its way back into the green for the year for the first time since June 2, gaining 0.57% to 2205.70. The Nasdaq is now up fractionally for the year and by 6.4% since its summer low on June 13. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

gained 0.04% to 11,469.28, while the

S&P 500

added 0.17% to 1313.25.

"The holiday seasonal held with Labor Day bracketed by positive days," writes technician John Bollinger in a note after the market closed. "We are taking more seriously the idea that the market may try to bypass the usual fall blues."

The bond might be catching on to the stock market's bullish mood about the economy. The 10-year Treasury note fell 14/32, sending yields up to 4.78%. The two-year note fell 2/32 to yield 4.8%.

No News Vacuum

Despite the relatively modest moves for major averages, the day wasn't absent corporate news by any stretch.

Oil continued its monthlong decline Tuesday as

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

and partners

Devon Energy

(DVN) - Get Report

and

Statoil ASA

(STO)

announced the discovery of a massive oil field in the Gulf of Mexico. The news drove the price of light sweet crude down by 69 cents to $68.50 per barrel, as gasoline and heating oil prices also fell. Chevron's shares gained 2.33%, while Devon's added 12.46% and Statoil's stock jumped 2.4%.

Copper miner

Phelps Dodge

( PD) pulled the plug on its plans to acquire nickel maker

Inco

(N)

. The disintegration of Phelps' acquisition aims drove its shares up 3% while Inco's shares ended down 0.75%.

Meanwhile,

Viacom's

( VIA-B) chairman Sumner Redstone on Tuesday announced that the company ousted chief executive Tom Freston, replacing him with Philippe Dauman, a board member at Viacom. Redstone also named Thomas Dooley to a newly created chief administrative officer post. The market sent Viacom's stock plunging 5.38%.

The news didn't stop after the market's close.

Ford

(F) - Get Report

announced that its chief executive Bill Ford would step down, naming

Boeing's

(BA) - Get Report

Alan Mulally as Ford's replacement. Ford will continue to serve as executive chairman of the company. Ford's shares were up 2.62% in after-hours trading as hopes run high that the company will restructure effectively under new leadership.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

also made headlines late Tuesday, as the chipmaker plans to cut 9,500 jobs, or 10% of its workforce, amounting to $2 billion in savings. Its shares were down 0.9% in recent after-hours trading.

The cyclically sensitive industrial companies that helped fuel the August rally are still in play at the start of September, indicating that investors are still feeling upbeat about the prospect for a Goldilocks economy. The Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index gained another 0.78% Tuesday.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

rose 3.6% after saying it will hike machinery prices up to 5% and engine prices up to 7%. Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock to buy from neutral. Caterpillar's competitor

CNH Global

(CNH)

gained 6.24% Tuesday.

The tech sector, which was coming off of larger losses, also remained positive Tuesday. Internet stocks in particular did well in August and continued to rally Tuesday.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

gained 1.48%,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

added 1.88%, and

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

gained 1.52% in Tuesday's session. Amazon and eBay gained over 17% in the month of August.

So for a day without a clear catalyst, there was lots of news. But as the Fed's rate decisions remain so crucial to the market's mood, Wednesday's productivity data are likely a bigger headline for traders.

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Rappaport doesn't own or short individual stocks. She also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. She appreciates your feedback. Click

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