Stocks finish mixed with tech stocks gaining


NEW YORK -- Stocks ended mixed Tuesday as investors grappled with concerns about consumer spending in some parts of the economy while technology stocks showed broad gains.

Stocks pared losses from early in the session to trade largely flat as investors tried to balance concerns about weakness in the economy with hopes that lackluster indications about the health of the consumer and the housing market could bolster the case for lower interest rates. Meanwhile, falling energy prices appeared to lend some support to stocks.

Traders weighed a series of negative reports from companies whose fortunes are tied to the health of the consumer. Retailers Target Corp. and Lowe's Cos. trimmed their expectations for the year because of slowing sales, while homebuilder Lennar Corp. posted a fiscal third-quarter loss and sharply lower revenues.

The latest economic reports offered fresh evidence that consumer sentiment is taking a hit amid the worst housing slump in more than a decade.

In the reports, the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index for September fell to its lowest level in almost two years and the National Association of Realtors reported sales of existing homes fell for a sixth straight month in August to the lowest point in five years.

"There are still some mental factors at play. The market has leaped substantially off the recent lows," said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist for Weeden & Co. "We're consolidating ahead of a seasonally strong time, and there are still lingering concerns about the economy."

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.59, or 0.14%, to 13,778.65.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped 0.52, or 0.03%, to 1,517.21, while the Nasdaq composite rose 15.50, or 0.58%, to 2,583.45.