HP weighs on Wall St despite strong data

WALL Street ended modestly higher yesterday on stronger-than-expected US labor and service-sector data, but the Dow industrials were hobbled by a slide in Hewlett-Packard.

Shares of Hewlett-Packard dropped sharply after the company warned yesterday of a darker outlook for 2013 earnings, reflecting slow progress on CEO Meg Whitman’s turnaround plan while technology spending sputters and driving its stock down 13 per cent to a nine-year low.

The three major US stock indexes, which initially got a modest lift from the positive data, came off their highs by late afternoon trade on lingering concerns about the global economy. A gloomier outlook in China and Europe weighed on commodity prices and hit energy and materials shares.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 12.25 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 13,494.61 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 5.24 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 1,450.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 15.19 points, or 0.49 per cent, to close at 3,135.23. Earlier in the session, the Dow climbed as high as 13,536.27, while the S&P 500 hit an intraday high at 1,454.30. The Nasdaq rose to an intraday high at 3,142.36.

Data showed growth in the US services sector picked up in September, defying economists’ expectations for a slight decrease, while last month, the private sector added more jobs than forecast. The data comes ahead of the closely watched monthly US non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

The S&P’s consumer discretionary sector index rose 0.8 per cent, helped by stocks like Amazon, up 2.1 per cent at $255.92.