Wall Street finally managed to find some reasons for buying stocks today -- but not enough reasons to make up for its losses earlier in the week.
The rally came late in the day after traders digested a four-course menu of economic data -- none particularly tasty.
Reflecting the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on energy prices, the consumer price index jumped 1.2 percent last month -- its biggest monthly move in 25 years. But investors focused instead on "core" inflation, which factors out erratic energy and food prices. Core inflation was up 0.1 percent.
In other economic data points, industrial production fell by 1.3 percent last month, retail sales grew 0.2 percent and the University of Michigan's gauge of consumer confidence fell unexpectedly by about 2 percent.
The hurricanes and their aftermath played a big part in all the measurements of September economic activity. Some Wall Streeters argue that until the impact of the storms fades, it will be hard to figure out just how healthy the economy really is.
That view seemed to influence today's trading. Wall Street's cheerleaders have been predicting a stock rally all week long, but today's bounce was still no more than modest.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 71 points to 10,287.34.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index climbed 18 points to 2,064.83.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index added 10 points, closing at 1,186.57.
For the week, the Nasdaq composite was off 1.2 percent; the S&P, down 0.8 percent; and the Dow, behind by 0.05 percent.