Stocks drifted yesterday as neither a report showing the biggest decline in consumer confidence in 15 years nor Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's reassurance about the economy's "flexibility" held sway.
Prices fell after the release of the confidence report and then rebounded, reaching the day's highs as Greenspan expressed his view in a speech to economists. The market slumped anew in the final hour of trading.
The S&P 500 inched up 0.03, to 1215.66. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 12.58, or 0.1 percent, to 10,456.21, buoyed by Boeing, which gained for the second day since the company reached an agreement with striking machinists.
The Nasdaq composite index fell 5.04, or 0.2 percent, to 2116.42, dragged lower by J.P. Morgan's downgrade of the semiconductor industry.
Benchmarks, lower for most of the day, erased their declines as Greenspan gave his remarks and as the price of oil dropped.
The Conference Board's index for consumer confidence dropped to 86.6 from 105.5 in August. The measure's slide was the steepest since October 1990.
Boeing rallied $1.88, or 2.9 percent, to $66.55, for the best performance in the Dow.
Texas Instruments, the largest maker of chips that power mobile phones, fell 85 cents, to $32.92, as an S&P 500 measure of semiconductor companies declined 1.5 percent, for the worst performance among 24 industry groups.
Pepsi Bottling Group, the world's second-largest soft-drink bottler, gained 85 cents, to $28.46. The company said third-quarter profit rose 7.3 percent on sales of soft drinks in Europe and Aquafina water in the United States.
Monsanto, the biggest developer of genetically engineered seeds, climbed $2.99, or 5.2 percent, to $60.07, for the second-best rally in the S&P 500.
Taser International fell 96 cents, to $6.35. The world's biggest maker of electric stun guns said a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry has been expanded into a formal investigation, and it includes a review of stock manipulation.
New York Stock Exchange composite index fell 7.80, to 7548.65.
American Stock Exchange index fell 14.49, to 1712.63.
Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 1.03, to 659.17.
NYSE: 1.97 billion shares, down from 2.01 billion on Monday. Decliners exceeded advancers 4 to 3.
Nasdaq: 1.64 billion shares, up from 1.52 billion. Decliners outnumbered advancers
6 to 5.
Crude oil for November delivery: $65.07, down 75 cents.
Gold for current delivery: $462.60 a troy ounce, down from $465.90 on Monday.