NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A deluge of data kept Wall Street busy on Thursday with traders digesting manufacturing numbers coming from China and Europe and U.S. inflation figures. Flying under the radar, a string of positive earnings from retailers managed to pull markets higher even as the focus remained on data.
The S&P 500 recovered from its biggest drop in just over a month to trade around 0.11% higher, while the Nasdaq popped 0.29%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around its flatline.
Boosting markets, Best Buy (BBY) spiked 7.7% after earning an adjusted 32 cents a share in the third quarter, topping analysts' estimates of 25 cents. Lifestyle retailer Williams-Sonoma (WSM) surged nearly 10% after beating earnings estimates and reporting a 8.7% increase in comparable-store sales in its recent quarter.
Consumer price inflation was kept to a low in October as gasoline prices fell more than 3%. The Consumer Price Index was unchanged compared to a forecast 0.1% fall. "Core" CPI, which excludes volatile items such as energy and food, came in as expected at 0.2% compared to 0.1% a month earlier. The Nasdaq rose 0.11%
The latest reading could give the Federal Reserve pause as it mulls the return to normal monetary and interest rate policy. Over the past 12 months, prices have risen 1.7%, still below the Fed's annual 2% target rate.
"Fed officials are increasingly concerned inflation will remain below the Fed's longer-term target of 2% for years, with some Committee members fearful it could be even longer than that before reaching and maintaining stable prices at the desired level," Sterne Agee chief economist Linsdey Piegza wrote in a note. "This morning's benign inflation report does little to alleviate those fears, with headline inflation still noticeably below the Fed's threshold."
Grim news came from overseas with Chinese factory activity effectively stalling in November. The flash China Manufacturing PMI fell to six-month low of 50, indicative of neither growth nor contraction. The data gave concern to investors that the world's second-largest economy was on the verge of shrinking.
Meanwhile, eurozone PMI showed widespread weakness across the region with a reading of 51.4, well below even the lowest of forecasts and hitting a 16-month low. The eurozone has suffered deflation concerns and unemployment woes and recent weaker-than-expected data gives investors reason to fear the region could fall into recession.
"A fall in the eurozone PMI to a 16-month low raises the risk of the region slipping back into a renewed downturn," Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson said in the survey release. "The single currency area is struggling to eke out any growth, with the PMI indicating that GDP is likely to have risen by just 0.1-0.2% in the fourth quarter."
Japan, which slipped into its own recession in its third quarter, also posted slightly slower manufacturing activity in November, down 0.3 points to 52.1. However, output rose to its highest in eight months, giving some hope for resilience in the Japanese economy.
Salesforce.com (CRM) shares were down nearly 3.3% after the software-as-a-service provider issued light fourth-quarter guidance and a disappointing forecast for the year ahead.
Camera manufacturer GoPro (GPRO) shed 5.9% after pricing its secondary offering of 10.4 million shares at $75, 5% lower than the stock's close on Wednesday.
-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.