Wall Street's dog days dragged on again today as stocks made insignificant moves for the fourth day in a row.
With next to no news to motivate the market, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index inched up 2 points to 1,221.73, the Dow Jones industrial average advanced almost 11 points to 10,569.89 and the comparatively hyper Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained almost 6 points to 2,141.41.
Traders consoled themselves that things could be worse -- and may well be come September.
September is usually the worst month of the year for the stock market, based on trading records compiled over the last 30 years by the Stock Trader's Almanac.
The market typically starts slipping around the middle of September when companies that are having a poor third quarter start to fess up to their shortcomings by issuing preliminary financial reports.
Today, pharmaceutical stocks were weakened by the continuing slide in the shares of Merck & Co., which on Friday was ordered to pay $253 million in damages to the family of a Texas man who died of a heart ailment while taking the painkiller Vioxx.
Merck said it will appeal the verdict, noting that it awarded punitive damages far beyond what is permitted by Texas law.
The company is facing more than 4,000 other lawsuits over Vioxx, which was taken off the market because of concerns about potential heart problems. The lawyer who won the verdict against Merck predicted thousands more cases will be filed and Wall Street analysts estimated the company could face $10 billion in damages -- and maybe more.
Shares of Northwest Airlines continued to climb as Northwest kept flying despite a strike by the union representing 4,000 mechanics, airplane cleaning crews and other workers. Other unions ignored picket lines and thousands of replacement workers took over the work normally done by the striking employees.