NEW YORK – Stocks remained almost unchanged in light trading Friday ahead of the long holiday weekend as higher oil prices offset a government report that showed rising personal incomes but declines in consumer spending.
The Nasdaq closed up for the fourth week in a row, while the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 were each up for two weeks straight.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) gained 4.95 points, or 0.05 percent, to end at 10,542.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) gained 1.16 points, or 0.10 percent, to finish at 1,198.78. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) gained 4.49 points, or 0.22 percent, to close at 2,075.73.
For the week, the blue-chip Dow average gained 0.67 percent, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.80 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1.43 percent.
"It's a very quiet day," said Todd Clark, head of listed equity trading at Wells Fargo Securities. "It looks like a lot of people have already checked out for the start of the summer."
Investors were little inclined to take risks ahead of a long holiday weekend. U.S. stock, bond and NYMEX energy markets will be closed on Monday to mark Memorial Day (search).
The Commerce Department (search) reported a 0.7 percent rise in personal income in April, reflecting a big jump in hiring by private sector businesses; the increase follows two months of 0.5 percent growth. Consumer spending rose 0.6 percent in April, down from a 0.9 percent rise in March. Analysts say the likely rise in employment will support consumer spending in the period ahead, and help keep the economy moving at a good clip.
"The market reads this as a positive number," said Nathaniel Paull, portfolio manager at New Amsterdam Partners. "It shows that the economy is on a solid footing, which will ultimately lead to continued good earnings growth for companies."
But oil prices kept a lid on gains. U.S. light sweet crude for July delivery rose 84 cents to settle at $51.85 a barrel, whetting some investors' appetites for energy stocks, amid concerns about U.S. supplies as the peak summer driving season gets into gear. The Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start to the summer holiday season, when Americans take to the roads.
Crude prices at these levels are "not going to help, especially with the summer traveler," said Weston Boone, vice president listed trading, Legg Mason Wood Walker. "The price of gas at the pumps is always a concern, and how that will adversely affect the consumer over the next few summer months."
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) was up 1 percent, or 58 cents, at $56.80. It was the Dow's second-biggest percentage gainer. Also in the oil sector, Chevron Corp. (CVX) rose 1.6 percent, or 86 cents, to $54.58, and ConocoPhillips (COP) gained 2.4 percent, or $2.47, to $107.55. All three oil companies trade on the NYSE.
Shares of insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG) climbed 1.24 percent, and ranked as the Dow's biggest percentage gainer. AIG shares added 69 cents to close at $56.40, adding to gains on Thursday after New York state authorities filed suit against AIG, its former CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and its former chief financial officer. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and New York Insurance Superintendent Howard Mills cited a pattern of fraud at AIG, the world's biggest insurer by market value. Some traders linked the rise in the stock's price to relief that the lawsuit did not point to any new charges.
Ford Motor Co. (F) added 4 cents to $10.07 after the carmaker's finance arm said it had received approval to enter China's lucrative auto financing market and will begin operations later this year. The business initially will concentrate on wholesale financing for dealers, Ford Motor Credit Co. said, but will also conduct trials of consumer loans.
Pfizer Inc. (PFE) was down 1.9 percent, or 54 cents, at $28.36 on the NYSE after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has received more than 40 reports of a type of blindness in men taking impotence drugs, mostly involving Pfizer's Viagra. An FDA spokeswoman said there was no proof that the blindness was caused by the drug.
The Nasdaq was driven higher by specialty home furnishing retailer Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) , which rose 1.8 percent, or 70 cents, to $40.42. Shares of specialty apparel retailers Chico's FAS Inc. (CHS) and Wet Seal Inc. rallied after better-than-expected quarterly results.
Chico's gained 8.4 percent, or $2.63, to $33.85 on the NYSE. Wet Seal was up 8.8 percent, or 34 cents, at $4.19 on Nasdaq.
Other stocks that were moving included TiVo Inc. (TIVO), up nearly 11 percent to $7.67, a day after the developer of television recording technology said its first-quarter loss narrowed significantly from a year ago.
About 1.04 billion shares changed hands on the NYSE, well under the 1.46 billion daily average for last year. On the Nasdaq, about 1.26 billion shares were traded, sharply beneath the 1.81 billion daily average last year.
The number of advancing shares exceeded the number of decliners on the NYSE by 11 to 5. Advancers outnumbered decliners on the Nasdaq by 17 to 13.
"I haven't seen a picture of the NYSE floor today, but I'd guess they're chipping golf balls down there at this point, Caldwell joked in an early afternoon interview.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, was up 2.20, or 0.36 percent, at 616.90.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average surged 1.49 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 slid 0.13 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.17 percent and Germany's DAX index was up 0.18 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.