Friday was a holiday in Washington and today might as well have been one on Wall Street.

It was veterans who were honored on Friday and veteran traders who held back the stock market today.

With crucial reports on inflation and retail sales coming tomorrow, old time traders were savvy enough to figure out that today was not the time to make any big bets on stocks.

Today's sales and earnings reports from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Lowe's provided clues that consumers kept spending last month, but the hints were not evidence enough to offset the risk of buying the day before the government delivers hard data.

Lowe's numbers, however, were strong enough that traders not only bought its stock, but shares of competitor Home Depot as well.

Home Depot stock climbed about 1.5 percent, the biggest gain by any of the companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, which outpaced other measures of the market today.

That isn't saying much. The Dow index advanced only 11 points to 10,697.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell just about 1 point to 1,233.71. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index fell 1 1/2 points to 2,200.95.

Wall Street's other rationale for playing cautious today is that tomorrow will be the public debut for Ben Bernanke, President Bush's choice to succeed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve Board chairman. Bernanke starts the Senate confirmation process with a hearing that will give him a chance to detail his economic philosophy.

No surprises are expected, for Wall Street knows better than to take the Fed or Congress for granted.