U.S. stocks ended the week on a positive note. The major averages closed up Friday, but the week overall was dismal for the stock market. The month of August was even worse.
Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 30 points, .33 percent, to 9,950. The broader S&P 500 index climbed five points to 1,134, while the tech-weighted Nasdaq composite closed about 14 points higher at 1,805.
But the Dow is down over four percent for the week, more than five percent for the entire month of August. The Nasdaq dropped six percent this past week, and is down 11 percent for the month.
Some news Friday raised hopes for the U.S. manufacturing sector. New factory orders rose slightly in July. Analysts thought there would be a decline. And an index measuring industrial activity in the U.S. midwest actually turned higher in August.
But consumer confidence, a key factor for the U.S. economy, slipped in August, helping keep the market's gains limited.
Investment strategist Tobias Lefkovich of Merrill Lynch said the possibility that consumer spending might slacken is worse news for the market than the corporate earnings decline, which by now, he says, is almost an old story. "Clearly, the consumer news was a little bit more disconcerting," he said. "That's been kind of a stalwart in the marketplace. And obviously, that's one area the market seemed to have reacted the most negatively to."
Experts agree consumer spending, as well as the housing sector, have kept the U.S. economy growing, although at a crawling pace. There are signs that both are weakening. Economist David Jones says it is now up to the business sector to make things right. "We're at the critical juncture right now," he said. "The business sector has led us into this downturn. Consumers and housing have kept us out of an all out recession. Can we get the business sector to at least pick up a bit on inventories? And that would offset some cooling perhaps in consumers and housing in the months ahead."
If ever investors needed a long weekend, it is now. And they have it. U.S. financial markets are closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday.