Stocks ended the third quarter cautiously today, moving ahead slightly as oil prices fell, but still held back by worries about consumer spending.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 16 points to 10,568.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index picked up a point, closing at 1,228.81. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index climbed 10 points to 2,151.69.
Today's gains left all three indexes up for the quarter, but the Dow and Nasdaq Composite down for the year.
In the last three months, the Dow gained 2.9 percent, the S&P 3.1 percent and the Nasdaq 4.6 percent.
For the year the Nasdaq is down 1 percent, the Dow is down 2 percent and the S&P--which professionals regard as the best measure of the overall market--up 1.4 percent.
While the market made up for some of its earlier losses during the third quarter, hurricanes and horrific energy prices hang over Wall Street like a storm cloud.
Today's dose of bad news came from the Commerce Department, which reported that consumer incomes and spending plunged in August--taking its worst fall since 9/11.
Hurricanes took a direct toll, wiping out the incomes of hundreds of thousands of victims. National income totals shrank by billions of dollars because of the out-of-work casino worker in Mississippi, the New Orleans restaurant owner whose place was flooded and the Texas refinery worker whose plant suspended operations. Emergency spending did not make up for the business that was lost because victims had no money to buy anything.
And by pushing up gasoline prices, Katrina and Rita ravaged consumer spending.
Economists say the storms will ripple through economic data for months to come, making it difficult for investors to assess economic conditions and evaluate investment options.