NEW YORK — Reports that Americans spent more last month and inflation remained tame gave stocks a lift today.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 73 points as of 12:40 p.m. Eastern, or 0.5 percent, to 15,373. The Dow got a lift from Intel. Analysts at Jefferies & Co. said Intel may be able to increase its sales with power-efficient chips. Intel rose 64 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $23.26.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose four points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,688. The Nasdaq composite index was barely positive, up a point to 3,717, weighed down by Apple. The iPhone maker is down more than six percent this week after Apple’s latest product announcement did not live up to expectations.
Traders had a few economic reports to work through. The Commerce Department said Americans increased their spending modestly in August, roughly 0.2 percent, half of what economists expected.
The report was a mixed bag. Consumers spent more on cars, electronics and furniture, but they didn’t buy much else. Last month, several retail chains including Nordstrom, Macy’s and Wal-Mart cut their profit forecasts for the year.
The government also reported that wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent last month. Over the past year, prices have only gained 1.4 percent, a sign that inflation remains modest. One thing driving wholesale prices higher was energy, which spiked as a conflict with Syria appeared likely.
Trading is light as Wall Street heads into the weekend and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur starts at sundown. Approximately 2.3 billion shares have traded hands on the New York Stock Exchange so far today, versus the 6.5 billion typically traded on an average day.
Investors are also waiting for the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting Sept. 17-18, where the central bank is expected to decide the future of its bond-buying program.
“There’s a lot of ‘wait and see’ going on until the Fed meeting next week,” said Frank Davis, director of sales and trading at LEK Securities.
The Fed currently buys $85 billion in bonds each month, and the consensus among investors is that the central bank will decide to reduce its buying to about $75 billion or $80 billion a month. The question is no longer whether the Fed will cut back on its bond buying but by how much, said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist with Brown Brothers Harriman.
September has been very strong for stocks so far. The Dow is up 3.6 percent in September and the S&P 500 is up 3.3 percent.
In corporate news, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrances surged as the company’s fiscal second-quarter profit jumped 28 percent on stronger sales at its growing chain of beauty product stores. The stock jumped $17.47, or 17.4 percent, to $117.60.
Galena Biopharma plunged nearly 16 percent to $1.92 after the company sold 17.5 million shares of stock at $2 per share.