Stocks finished Wednesday, with tech stocks modestly higher, as investors digested news of an uptick in oil prices and a disappointing manufacturing report.
The Dow Jones industrial average shed 5.46 points, or 0.05%, to 10,168.46. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 1.67 point, or 0.15%, o 1,105.91. The Nasdaq composite index gained 12.31 points, or 0.67%, to 1,850.41.
Looking ahead to Thursday, Intel (INTC) will provide an update on its third quarter. Analysts have been voicing caution about the chipmaker's outlook and the stock, along with the rest of the tech sector, has been under pressure. Intel shares ticked slightly higher in Wednesday's session.
In economic news, investors will get an update on weekly intial jobless claims and July factory orders. Retailing chains will also be issuing their August sales results.
On Wednesday, oil prices moved higher. Crude oil futures closed at $44 per barrel after news of a pipeline fire in Iraq and a report showing a steep decline in inventories.
The August update on the ISM manufacturing index, was, as feared, weaker then economists' expectation of 60. The index fell to 59, down from 62 in July. The employment component of the index fell to 55.7 in August, down from 57.3 in the previous month.
The latest read on construction spending was in line with expectations, up 0.4% in July.
Automakers announced lower production goals. Ford Motor (F) General Motors (GM) both reported another poor month of U.S. vehicle sales for August. GM will cut truck production by 6.8% for the fourth quarter.
Corinthian Colleges (COCO) reported higher quarterly earnings on a 56% rise in revenue. The company earned $19.1 million, or 20 cents a share, for the fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30, up from $18 million a year ago.
In other news, fast-food restaurant chain Wendy's International (WEN) reaffirmed guidance for the year despite weaker sales in August due to Hurricane Charley and other storms in the Southeast.
Medical device maker Boston Scientific (BSX) warned that sales would fall short of analysts' expectations following a large recall of its Taxus stent. It told analysts to expect $1.44 billion to $1.465 billion in total revenues for the third quarter, below Wall Street expectations of $1.476 billion.
Trading is expected to stay light over the rest of the week, ahead of the Labor Day weekend, and others based in New York keep clear of the Republican National Convention.
The major economic highlight of the week -- the August jobs report -- is due Friday. Economists expect the unemployment rate to be 5.5%. Meantime, weekly initial jobless claims arrive Thursday, along with updates on factory orders and inventories for July.
U.S. Treasury prices finished lower as a manufacturing report that fell short of expectations was not weak enough to sustain a rally. Traders remain hesitant to buy ahead of Friday's crucial jobs data.
European stock markets logged gains Wednesday, led by France's retail giant Carrefour and oil stocks.
The Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index in London added 42.7 points, or 0.96%, to 4,502, with help from oils and banks. Germany's DAX index was up 32.41 points, or 0.86%, to 3,817.62. In Paris, the CAC 40 index was up 18.95 points, or 0.53%, to 3,613.23.
Asian markets finished with gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 45.56 points, or 0.41%, to close at 11,127.35, following Tuesday's rebound in U.S. stocks. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index climbed 173.59 points, or 1.35%, to close at 13,023.87.