Wall Street was little changed in choppy mid-day trading on Tuesday after erasing losses as data showing U.S. manufacturing expanded for a tenth straight month failed to quell fears of a slowing economy.
Construction spending rose 2.7 percent, and investment in private construction recorded its largest increase since July 2004, the Commerce Department said. Also, the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index expanded more than expected in May.
People are scared. It's hard to fundamentally make a real bullish story, said Stephen Massocca, managing director, Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco. It's clear that (data) at a minimum are plateauing here, relative to where they were in the first quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 42.55 points, or 0.42 percent, to 10,179.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> shed 0.84 points, or 0.08 percent, to 1,088.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 1.93 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,258.97.
Markets opened lower after a survey showed a more sluggish pace in euro zone manufacturing as well as new data indicating the rate of China's factory output eased.
Energy stocks were among the worst performers on Wall Street, including U.S.-listed shares of BP Plc , which tumbled 12.2 percent to $37.68 following the company's failed attempt to stem the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Halliburton Co slumped nearly 12 percent to $21.91 after Goldman Sachs removed the oilfield services giant from its conviction buy list, citing short-term concerns related to the oil spill. The S&P Energy index <.GSPE> fell 1.8 percent.
The BP news isn't helping markets today. It's going to weigh on oil companies and keep things in a state of flux in the energy sector for a while, said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In merger news, ev3 Inc jumped 17.5 percent to $22.23 after Covidien Plc agreed to buy the maker of stents and other vascular devices for $2.6 billion. Covidien shares slipped 2 percent to $41.56.
On the New York Stock Exchange, declines outpaces advancers by almost 2 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, losers outstripped winners by about 5 to 2.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)