NEW YORK - Stock indicators barely budged this week after big gains in the prior week. The Dow Jones industrial average did manage to push into the black for the year with a modest gain yesterday, but many traders are still cautious.
The continuing crop of better-than-expected economic news has lost its ability to incite the kinds of big gains the market was enjoying in March, early in a three-month rally that has brought the Standard & Poor's index up 39.9 percent.
The bond market exercised unusual control over stocks this week as investors worried that the Treasury Department was running low on buyers for U.S. debt. While a successful bond auction Thursday eased some of the concerns, investors are still nervous that Washington might have to entice buyers with higher interest rates.
Besides determining the government's own borrowing costs, bond yields are also used as a benchmark for consumer loans and can influence how much people borrow to finance big purchases like homes.
Rising interest rates are worrisome because they could stomp out the economy's attempts to recover from the recession, which began in December 2007.
Stocks zigzagged in a tight range yesterday as commodity and technology stocks gave up some recent gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 28.34, or 0.3 percent, to 8,799.26. It was the Dow's highest close since Jan. 6. The broader S&P 500 index rose 1.32, or 0.1 percent, to 946.21, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 3.57, or 0.2 percent, to 1,858.80.
Analysts said the market's pause was a healthy sign after the recent gains.
"We ran at sprinters' speed and now we're taking a couple jogs around the track to see if we can sprint again," said David Darst, chief investment strategist at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.
Next week, Wall Street gets reports on inflation for producers and consumers and regional manufacturing.