NEW YORK – Wall Street was mixed Wednesday after new government data showed economic growth was better than expected, despite a third quarter report indicating the worst performance in 10 years.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 46.84 points, or 0.6 percent, to end at 9,075.14 after an afternoon of choppy trading. The drop, which rose as much as 100 points previously, came on the heels of a 422-point loss incurred Monday and Tuesday.
The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 22.79 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 1,690.20.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index was almost unchanged, ending down 0.01 points at 1,059.78. The S&P lost 44 points Monday and Tuesday.
The economy recorded its sharpest contraction since the first quarter of 1991, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. GDP, the broadest measure of the country's economic health, still managed to beat economists' forecasts.
"While continuing to show weakness and the onset of a recession, it was not as bad as expected," said Barry Hyman, chief investment strategist at Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum. "This leads you to believe that the policies of lower interest rates and the fiscal policies will start to help the economy or have a greater chance of helping the economy in 2002."
Wall Street had been bracing for a decline of as much as a full 1 percent in the third quarter.
The market also got a boost from a report that business in the Midwest suffered less in October. The Purchasing Management Association of Chicago index of area business activity fell to 46.2 in October on a seasonally adjusted basis from 46.6 in September, according to a press release. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in business; above 50, expansion.
The Chicago index is considered a good gauge of the national Purchasing Management report, which is due out Thursday.
For the month, the Dow rose 2.57 percent, the S&P gained 1.81 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 12.77 percent.
October is known as the "jinx month" because of market crashes in 1929, 1987, and the Dow's 554-point drop on Oct. 27, 1997, plus "back-to-back massacres in 1978 and 1979," according to Yale Hirsch, editor of the Stock Trader's Almanac 2001.
Yet October can be a "bear killer," he adds, noting that the month has turned the tide in nine bear markets: 1946, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1987, 1990 and 1998. November, by contrast, usually is among a year's top three months for the S&P 500 along with December and January.
Sun Microsystems, the most active stock on Nasdaq, jumped 61 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $10.51 after the network computer maker said orders were tracking higher this quarter than they were this time last quarter.
However, the Dow was dragged lower after Moody's Investors Service cut its debt rating on Eastman Kodak Co., citing falling profits at the photography giant. Eastman Kodak was down $2.23, or 8 percent, at $25.57.
Continental Airlines Inc., the No. 5 U.S. air carrier, posted a third-quarter profit, helped by $243 million in federal grants aimed at staving off the sharp decline in air travel after last month's attacks. Shares rose 84 cents to $17.49, or more than 5 percent.
Intel Corp., a Dow component and Nasdaq heavyweight, added 88 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $24.42. The world's largest chip maker sounded a bullish note for long-term growth, saying the billions it's spending this year will yield profits and market share gains once the high-tech recession abates and growth resumes.
Motorola Inc. climbed 23 cents to $16.37 after the wireless giant said its global market share rose in the July-September quarter from the second quarter, boosted by sales of new products.
Adobe Systems Inc. fell $2.35, or 8.2 percent, to $26.40. The publishing software vendor said it would cut 150 jobs, or 5 percent of its work force, and lowered revenue and earnings forecasts, citing weakening business after the September attacks.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 991.09 million shares, below the 1.03 billion traded at the same point Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of company stocks, rose 5.81, or 1.4 percent, to 428.64.
Overseas markets were mixed Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei stock average finished Wednesday down 1.4 percent. In Europe, Britain's FT-SE ended up 0.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 climbed 2.1 percent, while Germany's DAX index was down 0.4 percent
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.