Stocks closed an erratic session mixed Wednesday as General Motors hit an 18-year low, dragging down the Dow Jones industrial average. Rising oil prices also influenced the markets.
The price of crude oil overshadowed a government report of moderating inflation that initially gave stocks a modest lift. Oil futures settled at $57.88 a barrel, up 90 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a sharp change from the four-month low they reached Tuesday. Wednesday's government petroleum inventory numbers were weaker then expected.
GM fell $1.32, to $21.29, as concerns mounted about problems at its top supplier, Delphi, and worries about the company's ability to turn around its performance. Leaders of the United Auto Workers said the union and Delphi remain far apart on a new labor agreement and fears of a strike have spooked investors.
Broader economic news was more upbeat. The Labor Department reported that consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in October, the smallest increase in four months. In September, consumer prices rose 1.2 percent on record energy prices.
That inflation increase was the largest one-month jump in 25 years.
The Dow fell 11.68, or 0.11 percent, to 10,674.76. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 2.20, or 0.18 percent, to 1231.21, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.19, or 0.05 percent, to 2187.93.
Bonds rose sharply as stocks declined, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.47 percent, from 4.56 percent late Tuesday. The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies in European trading. Gold prices rose.
American Express fell 85 cents, to $50.08. Its chief executive said several analysts are overestimating the company's fourth-quarter profit.
Caterpillar rose 83 cents, to $56.73, on strong October sales.
Oracle fell 18 cents, to $12.49. It bought security-software specialists Thor Technologies and OctetString, continuing acquisitions aimed at filling holes in its product lines.
New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 9.60, to 7518.98.
American Stock Exchange index fell 3.92, to 1689.30.
Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 1.59, to 654.64.
NYSE: 2.16 billion shares, down from 2.35 billion on Tuesday. Decliners narrowly outnumbered advancers.
Nasdaq: 1.71 billion shares, up from 1.71 billion. Decliners outnumbered advancers 3 to 2.
Crude oil for December delivery: $57.88, up 90 cents.
Gold for current delivery: $478.30 a troy ounce, up from $468.10 on Tuesday.