Oct. 26 - Summary of business headlines: Wall Street marks time as economy remains lackluster; Consumer sentiment hits 5-year high; Oil fluctuates as Hurricane Sandy roars; Microsoft gets lines for Surface tablet, Windows 8. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Up and down, up and down, the day was like a see-saw on Friday as investors seem to call it quits before the closing bell. In the end, the Dow and Nasdaq edged higher, while the S&P 500 nudged lower; leaving blue chips with a deficit for the week and the Nasdaq down for a third week in a row. Economic numbers did little to move the needle. The U.S. economy grew at a 2 percent rate in the third quarter, which was only a tad better than expected, though stronger than the rate seen the prior three months. Business spending was a drag, but government and consumer spending were a boost, but not nearly as strong enough to bring down the unemployment rate. The economy could get a boost from U.S. shoppers this quarter. Consumer sentiment touched a five-year high this month, according to findings by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. Trading in the oil pits at the New York Mercantile Exchange was erratic as Hurricane Sandy heads toward refineries on the eastern seaboard. It was a busy day at Microsoft's New York City Pop-up store. Consumers appear ready to give Microsoft's Surface tablet a try. There were similar lines elsewhere as the device goes on sale globally, but no-where near the enthusiasm seen at iPad launches, which Microsoft is trying to challenge. Microsoft is trying to change the game with the device and a totally redone operating system called Windows 8. Long-time tech watcher Rick Sherlund: SOUNDBITE: RICK SHERLUND, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NOMURA SECURITIES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I like Microsoft because they have a product cycle upcoming for Windows 8 that may take a little longer than normal to show the benefits but at the valuation we are at right now I think that stock is attractive." Shares of Microsoft finished with a gain of roughly 1.2 percent. Wrapping up with a look at Europe....stocks posted modest gains despite a group of mostly disappointing quarterly results.