Wall Street worked up enough confidence to put together a two-day winning streak, bidding stocks up just enough to keep the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index in the black for the month of February.
But despite their second day of small gains, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index racked up their third losing month in a row.
Picking up a paltry 6 points today, the Dow closed at 7,891.08, down 2 percent for the month.
After inching up almost 4 points today to 841.15, the S&P still reported a 1.7 percent February loss.
The Nasdaq composite ended the month with a 1.3 percent gain, thanks to its advances over the past two days. It gained more than 13 points today to close at 1,337.52.
Investors drew some encouragement Friday from the Commerce Department's updated report on economic growth, which showed the nation's Gross Domestic Product increased at a 1.4 percent annual rate in the final quarter of last year.
That was twice as fast as first reports indicated, showing the economy had a little more momentum going into 2003. Economists are now saying growth could pick up this quarter to a 2 percent annual rate.
Worries about the looming war with Iraq have been holding back growth--and the market--but now the weather may become as serious a threat as Saddam Hussein.
In Washington, February goes into the record books as the silver medal winner, for snow--the second snowiest ever. Combined with temperatures far below average for the entire Northeast, the harsh winter has driven up prices and burned up supplies of heating oil, natural gas and gasoline, leaving perilously little in the tanks of suppliers.
Some factories that burn natural gas shut down last week because they can't operate profitably at current prices, which hit a 12-year high last week. Heating oil and crude oil prices also touched 12-year highs. The government's weekly gasoline price survey, now being completed, could show pump prices rising past the all-time record of $1.71 a gallon when the report is issued Tuesday.
Without a break in the weather--which is not in the immediate forecast--prices are expected to keep rising and supplies will continue to shrink, threatening the economy with a double whammy.
The energy crunch is making money for traders on New York's futures markets, but at the stock exchanges it is one more reason for wary investors to stay on the sidelines.