NEW YORK — The stock market took a pause today after a scorching start to July.
Stocks inched higher in midday trading on Wall Street as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index came off its best week since January.
The S&P 500 surged 3 percent last week and reached another record high on Friday, bouncing back from a slump in June on concern that the Federal Reserve was poised to start easing back on its stimulus to the economy. The central bank is currently buying $85 billion of bonds a month to keep interest rates low and to encourage borrowing and hiring.
“The market is consolidating its gains from last week,” said Jim Russell, a regional investment director at US Bank.
Investors may also standing pat before testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will be giving his semi-annual testimony to Congress on Wednesday, Russell said. Comments from Bernanke late on Wednesday that the Fed would not ease its stimulus before the economy was ready helped power last week’s surge in stocks.
A closely watched report on U.S. retail sales early today had some disappointments for investors. Americans spent more at retail businesses in June, buying more cars and trucks, furniture and clothes, but they cut back on many other purchases, a mixed sign for economic growth. Retail sales rose just 0.4 percent from May, less than analysts had forecast and less than the 0.5 percent increase the previous month.
Stocks fluctuated between small losses and gains in the early going.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,478 as of 12:03 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose two points, or 1,682 and the Nasdaq Composite rose six points to 3,606.
Small-company stocks had the biggest gains today. The Russell 2000 rose six points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,042, bringing its gains for the year to 22.8 percent. That’s far ahead of the S&P’s gain of 18 percent.
The market’s advance was held back by news that economic growth in China, the second-biggest economy in the world, fell to the lowest since 1991, hurt by weak trade and efforts to cool a credit boom. China’s economy expanded at an annual rate of 7.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 7.7 percent in the same period a year earlier.
Slowing global growth is one of the biggest threats to this year’s stock rally, said Uri Landesman, President of Platinum Partners. He predicts that stock markets may be poised to slump as much as 15 percent in coming months as this year’s gains overstate the outlook for the economy.
“Most of the world’s economies are sucking wind,” Landesman said. “It’s going to be very difficult to keep (the U.S. economy) going with weak exports.”
In commodities trading, the price of oil fell 8 cents to $105.86 a barrel. Gold rose $6.30, or 0.5 percent, to $1,284 an ounce. The dollar rose against the euro and the Japanese yen.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.57 from 2.58 percent Friday.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Leap Wireless soared $8.96, or 112 percent, to $16.94 after the carrier agreed to be acquired by AT&T for $1.19 billion, or $15 a share. The deal was announced late Friday. AT&T fell 22 cents, or 0.6 percent, $35.59.
— Citigroup rose 64 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $51.46 after the bank reported earnings that beat analyst’s expectations for the second quarter as investment banking profits surged.
— Boeing gained $3.19, or 3.2 percent, or $105.10 after an analysts at Sterne Agee recommended buying the stock. Boeing slumped 2 percent Friday following a fire on an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 parked at London’s Heathrow airport.