Wall St slips, but logs strong quarter

WALL Street wrapped up its best quarter in a year yesterday with the S&P and Nasdaq logging in the biggest monthly gains since April 2009, as data showed the economy isn’t in such bad shape.

Defying September’s track record as the worst month for stocks, the S&P 500 was up 8.8 per cent. In the third quarter, the index gained 10.7 per cent, which was the best in a year.

The session was volatile, split between investors positioning for the end of the quarter and those buying on encouraging data. After up and down moves of nearly one per cent, equities ended slightly lower.

Still, the S&P 500 seemed to be struggling to break above the 1,145-1,150 trading range.

“Since September was such a strong month, many think October will be the scary one. If [future] data and earnings confirm that we are finally out of fears of a double-dip [recession], October may be the month for the S&P to break above trading range and reach the highs that we saw in April,” said John Canally, an economist and investment strategist at LPL Financial in Boston.

A Reuters poll showed leading world investors increased equity holdings to their highest level in three months in September and reduced bonds and cash as confidence about the global economy grew. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 47.23 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 10,788.05. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 3.53 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 1,141.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 7.94 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 2,368.62.

After the bell, Hewlett-Packard shares fell 3 percent to $40.65 after the company named Leo Apotheker as its new chief executive, tapping a software industry veteran to lead the world’s largest technology company.

Semiconductor companies, a growth sector that advanced during the quarter, ranked among the day’s losers and weighed on the Nasdaq. The Philadelphia semiconductor index fell 0.7 per cent. In the options market, bearish activity was detected in Micron Technology about a week before its quarterly results, and in Dell, as some investors appear to be taking defensive positions.