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Stocks turned mostly lower this afternoon after giving back gains on a report that confirmed that the economy slowed in the third quarter, reinforcing optimism for stable inflation and interest rates.

At 3 p.m. the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 7.46 at 5,999.56, having retreated from an early 21-point advance.

Broader measures also pulled back after bonds surrendered an opening advance that briefly brought long-term interest rates to their lowest level in seven months.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a slim margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 359.10 million shares, almost even with Tuesday afternoon's 363.49 million.

Stocks started the session higher with bonds, which extended Tuesday's rally after the Commerce Department reported that the economy grew at a modest 2.2 percent annual rate during the third quarter while consumer spending dipped to its weakest pace in five years.

But bonds slipped back near opening levels, pressuring stocks, after a subsequent report demonstrated some stronger-than-expected activity in home sales.

The Federal Reserve, which has thus far decided against an economy-slowing hike in its key lending rates, is to meet again Nov. 13 to consider whether there's a threat of rapid inflation.

The basis of those discussions will be the central bank's periodic survey of regional business conditions, which the Fed reported on at midday, saying growth remains moderate. While the survey found few indications of price increases, it revealed upward pressure on wages due to tight labor markets in some occupations.

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