Reports of a rip-roaring weekend for retailers pushed the Dow Jones industrial average past the 9,000 point for the first time since August, but the Christmas cheer was quickly extinguished by a reality check from the manufacturing sector of the economy.
The Dow broke through the 9,000 barrier within 10 minutes of the opening bell, based on reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. rang up record Thanksgiving weekend sales.
By one estimate, retail spending for the weekend was up 11 percent from last year, a surprising gain given the modest sales growth forecasts issued by most retailers.
Merchants need to get the holiday season off to a fast start because there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year due to calendar quirks.
But trend watchers cautioned that the only reason shoppers are buying may be to take advantage of bargains and to get popular gift items that they fear will sell out soon.
That caution, however, is not what knocked the Dow down even faster than it had gone up.
Shortly after the market opened, the Institute for Supply Management issued its November report on the state of the manufacturing business, showing its industry index rose from 48.5 in October to 49.2 in November.
That obscure statistic was instantly interpreted as bad news. Anything below 50 on the ISM scale means manufacturers are cutting back. And the fact that they are cutting back less than they were last month was still a disappointment to investors who had been counting on the index to show at least a little growth in November.
Before the first hour of trading was up, the Dow had dropped into negative territory. The blue chip index ended the day down nearly 34 points at 8,862.57.
Neither the manufacturing index nor the retail sales numbers reflect what's going on in technology companies, and those stocks held up better than the rest of the market today.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained 6 points to close at 1,484.75.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, which provides the best overall assessment of the market was down a little less than 2 points at 934.53.