Gloomy data drags Wall Street down

US stocks fell yesterday after a key index of business activity in the American Midwest region showed a surprising contraction, but buying of technology bellwethers like <strong>Cisco Systems</strong> at the end of a strong quarter limited losses.<br /><br />The top drags on the session were some of the quarter&rsquo;s best performers including industrials, materials and banks.<br /><br />The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago&rsquo;s business barometer unexpectedly fell to 46.1 in September, a level that indicates contraction in the regional economy.<br /><br />Typical of quarter-end action, trading was choppy and volume light.<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 29.92 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 9,712.28. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 index fell 3.53 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 1,057.08. The Nasdaq Composite index shed 1.62 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 2,122.42.<br /><br />Even so the Dow -- up 15 per cent this quarter -- marked its best quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 1998, while the S&amp;P 500 notched its second straight quarterly advance of 15 per cent. The Nasdaq gained 15.7 per cent for the third quarter.<br /><br />For the month, the Dow rose 2.3 percent, the S&amp;P 500 added 3.6 per cent and the Nasdaq climbed 5.6 per cent. These monthly gains ran counter to the historic trends showing September to be a miserable month for US stock market.<br /><br />After a weak open, the indexes briefly turned positive by mid-afternoon, thanks to gains in the shares of such tech bellwethers as Cisco Systems and <strong>International Business Machines </strong>(IBM).<br /><br />Cisco shares rose 1.03 per cent to $23.54 on Nasdaq, while IBM shares climbed 0.7 per cent to $119.61. The semiconductor index gained 0.9 per cent.<br /><br />&ldquo;When you look across the 10 (S&amp;P 500&rsquo;s industry) sectors, technology is one sector where there&rsquo;s actually some top-line growth,&rdquo; said Fitzpatrick.<br /><br />But <strong>JPMorgan</strong> declined 2.4 per cent to $43.82, putting the stock among the Dow&rsquo;s worst performers, along with <strong>Boeing</strong>, down almost 1 per cent to $54.15 and <strong>United Technologies</strong>, off 0.6 per cent at $60.93.