- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished a lackluster session narrowly mixed as investors made few moves ahead of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates. Record earnings from Exxon Mobil Corp. and evidence of strong consumer spending gave the market little momentum.

Investors welcomed the Commerce Department’s latest report on consumer spending, which rose 0.9 percent in December. Though personal incomes rose just 0.4 percent, the strong consumer spending showed continued confidence in the economy despite high energy prices.

Yet the report also showed prices remaining in check — good news for investors concerned about inflation. Despite that, many investors held off on making sharp moves before today’s Fed meeting. The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point to 4.5 percent, but Wall Street expects a signal that the central bank will stop increasing rates after that.

“It’s really a question of the economy and what the Fed’s going to do, and that’s not something you’re going to see a big move on in a single day,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “Nothing’s giving us those big knee-jerk reactions, so you’re seeing things kind of wishy-washy today.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.29, or 0.07 percent, to 10,899.92.

Broader stock indicators were modestly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 1.48, or 0.12 percent, to 1,285.20, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.55, or 0.11 percent, to 2,306.78.

Bonds moved lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.53 percent from 4.51 percent late Friday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices also moved higher.

Oil prices rose modestly even after a top Saudi Arabian official said his country has no intention of cutting production, and that prices were too high. OPEC meets in Vienna, Austria, today. A barrel of light crude settled at $68.35, up 59 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

And while higher oil prices failed to dramatically harm economic growth last year, there’s a concern that more price rises either could slow the economy or spark inflation — which makes today’s Fed decision all the more important.

High oil prices remain good news for Exxon Mobil, which set a record for quarterly profits by any U.S. company with $10.71 billion. The oil company benefited from high oil prices and strong demand, and beat Wall Street’s forecasts by 19 cents per share. Exxon Mobil climbed $1.82 to $63.11.

Eastman Kodak Co. lost 62 cents to $25.75 after reporting its fifth straight quarterly loss, though the company, nonetheless, beat Wall Street’s loss forecasts. The company, which is undergoing a difficult transition to digital photography, saw sales of its digital products climb 45 percent in the quarter.

Fourth-quarter profits at toy maker Mattel Inc. slipped 2 percent because of slow sales of its Barbie and Hot Wheels products. The company exceeded analysts’ profit estimates, though revenue fell short. Mattel, which also announced another $250 million for its stock-buyback program, rose $1.02 to $15.80.

Google Inc. slumped $6.67 to $426.82 prior to its quarterly earnings release, expected after the session. The Internet company was expected to post profits up 91 percent from the year-ago quarter.

The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies fell 1.35, or 0.18 percent, to 730.87.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.55 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.12 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.4 percent, and Germany’s DAX Index climbed 0.22 percent.

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