Mixed Trading Session Ends Best Month for Stocks Since April

Wall Street ended mixed Friday as investors weighed dismal economic reports against more positive corporate news and stayed optimistic that 2002 would bring a turnaround.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 22.14, or 0.23 percent, to end at 9,851.56. The Nasdaq composite index declined 2.69 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,930.57, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.75 points, or 0.07 percent, to 1,139.45.

Throughout the past week, investors have been wavering between optimism about the future and concerns about the current economy. Their indecision was apparent in Tuesday's session, when the Dow dropped 110 points on a weaker-than-expected reading on consumer confidence, and in Thursday's trading, when the blue chips rose 117 after the Commerce Department reported that durable goods orders soared a record 12.8 percent in October.

Investors were disappointed by economic news that revealed the U.S. economy was shrinking at an annual rate of 1.1 percent from July through September, the weakest showing in a decade.

The revised reading on Gross Domestic Product – the total output of goods and services produced within the United States – marked a much bigger drop than the 0.4 percent rate of decline estimated a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers index dropped more than 5 points in November to 41.1 from 46.2 in October, the National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago said. An index below 50 signals a contracting manufacturing economy, while a reading above 50 suggests expansion.

The group said November's index marked the 14th month of declining activity.

For the week, the S&P 500 shed 0.95 percent, the Nasdaq rose 1.4 percent and the Dow lost 1.1 percent.

November marked the strongest month for the market since last April as stocks continued to rally off their three-year lows hit on Sept. 21. For the month, the S&P 500 has jumped 7.5 percent, while the Nasdaq surged 14.2 percent and the Dow rose 8.6 percent.

Given how strongly the market has rallied since late September, analysts said there is plenty of room for investors to take profits from Wall Street. The Dow is 19.6 percent above its low of 8,235.81, where it closed Sept. 21 following the terror attacks. The Nasdaq is 35.7 percent above its post-attack low; the S&P 500, up 18 percent.

"We're no doubt still mired in economic weakness, but I sense growing confidence that our worst post-September 11 fears aren't being realized and that we'll be seeing a recovery next year," said Paul McManus, director of research at Independence Investment.

Upbeat prospects for the future boosted some stocks. Home Depot, the world's leading home improvement retailer, scaled back its earnings outlook and slowed the pace of new-store openings. Wall Street, which feared even worse news, bid the Dow stock up $2.64 to $46.66. The Morgan Stanley cyclical index climbed 1.04 percent.

General Motors, which said it expects the economy to recover late next year and for 2002 vehicle sales to be between 15 million and 15.5 million, advanced $1.11 to $49.70. GM also is a Dow component.

Chip-equipment maker Novellus Systems Inc. pressured technology shares with a grim outlook. Enron Corp. dragged on utilities as the once proud energy trader teetered near bankruptcy.

Novellus Systems fell $3.53 to $38.07 after warning fourth-quarter orders will be less than forecast and it may report losses in the first and second quarter next year.

The Novellus slide left its mark on sectoral issues, pushing the Philadelphia Stock Exchange semiconductor index down 2.67 percent. Applied Materials Inc., the leading semiconductor equipment maker, lost $1.71 to $39.74.

Networking software maker Novell Inc. rose 27 cents to $4.26. Its quarterly net loss widened sharply from a year earlier because of $114 million in charges. But earnings beat its estimates before charges.

Enron, whose stock continued to sink, fell 10 cents to 26 cents, or about 17 percent, effectively now costing less than a first-class U.S. postage stamp, which sells for 34 cents.

Enron, which once sported a stock price of about $85, was crushed by rival Dynegy Inc.'s decision to pull out of its planned $9 billion takeover of the beleaguered energy trader. Dynegy fell $3.30 to $30.35.

Advancing issues narrowly outnumbered decliners 16 to 15 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.34 billion shares, below the 1.37 billion traded Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, decreased 2.55, or 0.6 percent, to 460.78.

Overseas, markets were mostly higher Friday with Japan's Nikkei stock average finishing up 0.4 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 closed up 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 1.1 percent, while Britain's FT-SE 100 slipped 0.1 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.