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Stocks slip as data fail to inspire investors

A mixed batch of reports led to a directionless day.

NEW YORK - Wall Street retreated modestly in wobbly trading yesterday, putting its buying spree on hold to mull over mixed economic data. The Dow Jones industrial average briefly surpassed 13,500 for the first time, then pulled back.

Investors refrained from making any big moves after data yesterday showed strength in some areas of the economy, particularly employment, but weakness in others - giving little indication whether the Federal Reserve will lean toward an interest-rate cut later in the year.

Robust economic data yesterday included the Labor Department's report that jobless claims fell last week for the fifth straight week, and the Philadelphia Fed's May manufacturing index, which showed a stronger-than-anticipated increase. But the Conference Board forecast slower economic growth, with its April index of leading economic indicators declining more than expected.

Ultimately, it was a fairly directionless day on Wall Street, with investors uninspired by yesterday's data and more eager to hear about today's consumer-sentiment report from the University of Michigan, said John O'Donoghue, cohead of equities at Cowen & Co.

"The market's kind of on this monotonous grind higher, and you'll have days where you have a pause in the marketplace," O'Donoghue said. "But it doesn't seem like we're going to have a correction anytime soon."

New takeover activity, which has helped bring the Dow up more than 1,200 points over the last two months, failed to fuel a rally yesterday. Alliance Data Systems Corp. agreed yesterday to a $6.43 billion takeover by the Blackstone Group L.P., right after Acxiom Corp. said late Wednesday that it was being bought by two private-equity firms for $2.24 billion.

The Dow fell 10.81, or 0.08 percent, to 13,476.72 after rising as high as 13,516.71. On Wednesday, the index reached its 23d record close of the year.

Broader indexes also declined. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.39, or 0.09 percent, to 1,512.75, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.04, or 0.32 percent, to 2,539.38.

Bonds fell after the unemployment data were released, pushing up the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to 4.75 percent from 4.71 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar rose against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.