U.S. stock indexes mixed; Nasdaq ekes out another record high

Even on a day when the major U.S. stock indexes barely budged, the market notched another milestone.

The Nasdaq composite eked out a gain, pushing the tech-heavy index to its second record-high close in a row. The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index drifted in the opposite direction, closing slightly in the red.

Supermarket chains and other consumer-focused companies were among the biggest decliners. Traders bid up shares in energy, technology and airline companies. Crude oil prices rose.

New figures on job openings and a report used by the Federal Reserve to gauge the health of businesses did little to move the market, which has been in a wait-and-see mode as investors gauge the likelihood of further intervention by the Fed.

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“We get a favorable data point and shortly thereafter we get one that suggests we’re still in a very low-growth environment,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. “We’re not seeing tremendous volume or tremendous conviction on either side, from either sellers or buyers.”

The Dow dropped 11.98 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,526.14. The S&P 500 index slipped 0.32 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,186.16. The Nasdaq gained 8.02 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,283.93.

A run of weak U.S. economic data has reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again soon, which would be a potential boon for stocks. However, if the central bank opts to hold off on a rate increase, it could suggest expectations of sluggish economic growth and a dimmer outlook for corporate earnings, which is bad for stocks.

On Wednesday, investors got a mixed bag of economic news. The Fed’s latest “Beige Book” survey of business conditions indicated that the economy grew at a moderate or modest pace this summer in eight of the central bank’s 12 U.S. districts. The findings represent a slowdown from previous reports.

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Separately, the Labor Department said job openings jumped 4 percent in July. Another government report last Friday showed that employers pulled back on hiring in August.

“The jobs report from last Friday still kind of overshadowed that,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

Shares in some supermarket operators slumped on worries about lower food prices and greater discounts. Sprouts Farmers Markets fell $3.13, or 13.7 percent, to $19.68, after the company cut its guidance, citing falling food prices and rising discounts. Whole Foods slid $1.62, or 5.3 percent, to $29.08, while Kroger lost $1.35, or 4.1 percent, to $31.32.

Dave & Buster’s Entertainment fell about 3 percent after the restaurant and arcade chain reported weaker-than-anticipated sales. The company also lowered its same-store sales growth outlook for the rest of the year. The stock shed $1.34 to $44.93.

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Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures rose 67 cents, or 1.5 percent, to close at $45.50 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, added 72 cents, or 1.5 percent, to close at $47.98 a barrel in London.

The pickup in crude prices gave energy stocks a boost. The sector eked out the biggest gain in the S&P 500 index, rising 0.3 percent. It’s up 15.5 percent this year.

Technology stocks also rose, led by digital storage drive manufacturer Western Digital. The stock jumped $5.75, or 12.1 percent, to $53.30. Rival Seagate Technology added $2.04, or 5.9 percent, to $36.51.

Apple shares moved higher as the company announced new iPhone models that are water and dust resistant. Analysts say the new iPhones could help Apple recover modestly from a recent dip in sales. The stock added 66 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $108.36.

Apple also announced that Nintendo’s “Super Mario Runs” game will be available on the iPhone. That news sent U.S.-traded shares in Nintendo up $8.12, or 28.8 percent, to $36.32. Nintendo had previously resisted releasing Mario games to mobile phones.

Investors also bid up shares in several airlines. American Airlines Group rose $1.79, or 4.8 percent, to $38.75, while United Continental Holdings added $2.54, or 4.9 percent, to $53.68. Delta Air Lines rose $2.08, or 5.7 percent, to $38.90. Southwest Airlines climbed $1.73, or 4.7 percent, to $38.68.

News that Bill Ackman’s investment firm Pershing Square has acquired a 9.9 percent stake in Chipotle Mexican Grill gave shares in the struggling restaurant chain a lift. The stock rose $24.38, or 5.9 percent, to $438.45.

Major stock indexes in Europe notched gains. France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX each rose 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng each dipped 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed less than 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.35 a gallon. Heating oil added 2 cents to $1.43 a gallon. Natural gas slid 4 cents to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Among metals, gold slid $4.80 to $1,349.20 an ounce, while silver fell 29 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $19.84 an ounce. Copper picked up 1 cent to $2.10 a pound.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.54 percent. In currency markets, the dollar weakened to 101.75 yen from 102.08 on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1245 from $1.1253.