NEW YORK - A pair of encouraging economic reports helped nudge the stock market higher Wednesday. Measures of business activity in the service sector and job growth last month came in better than economists had expected.
The market's gains were held in check by a slump in energy stocks and Hewlett-Packard's 13 percent plunge. In a meeting with analysts and investors, Meg Whitman, HP's CEO, predicted weak earnings and sales for the foreseeable future.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.25 points to close at 13,494.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.24 points to 1,450.99.
"The price action today seems boring, but the economic data is pretty strong," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.
The Institute for Supply Management said its index of service companies, which includes everything from financial firms to clothing stores, rose in September to the highest level since March, at 55.1. Economists had estimated it would drop to 53.4.
But concerns over an economic slowdown in Europe, China and the U.S. helped push the price of crude oil down $3.75 to $88.14 a barrel. Energy stocks fell sharply as a result. After HP, Chevron had the worst loss in the Dow, giving up $1.82 to $116.14.
"The U.S is looking better than a lot of places in the world," Detrick said. "The big question is: Are they going to pull us down with them?"
In other trading, the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.19 points to 3,135.23. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note ended the trading day at 1.61 percent, same as late Tuesday.