Stocks try to recover on upbeat report


NEW YORK -- A still skittish Wall Street tried to stage a comeback Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrials erasing most of a 209-point drop after an upbeat assessment of manufacturing activity eased some worries about a flagging U.S. economy.

The major indexes were narrowly mixed in late morning, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index ekeing out a tiny 1-point gain. The Dow was off 10 points at the 12,258 level.

Investors showed their relief about manufacturing by buying some of the stocks that were pummeled in Tuesday's drop that sliced 416 points off the Dow. Fears about the U.S. economy contributed to that plunge, and a halfhearted rebound on Wednesday followed soothing words from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Institute for Supply Management's index of manufacturing activity came in at 52.3, stronger than the 50.0 reading analysts expected. The index is an important measure of a part of the economy that has given investors headaches in recent months. Manufacturing has struggled and at times given off signals that a recession might be in the offing. A reading at 50 and above indicates expansion, while anything below 50 signals contraction.

Nervousness still plagued the Street, however, and the indexes bounced around choppily as many investors bailed out of equities and fled to safe havens like Treasurys, fearing that stocks could see a bigger correction.