Quiet end to Wall Street week

Wall Street finished a strong week little changed today after investors looked past weaker-than-expected economic readings and focused on the ramifications of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates next week.

US stocks initially fell sharply today following a government report that August retail sales excluding vehicles declined steeply.

The report suggested consumers held off spending in the face of turmoil in the financial markets, an unwelcome development that some on Wall Street are hoping could be reversed by a rate cut.

Some investors regarded the report as supporting the case for a rate cut when Fed policy makers meet Tuesday.

“Emotions are running fairly high,” said Robert Schaeffer, vice president at Becker Capital Management Inc in Portland, Oregon. “I think you’re seeing a lot of normal gyrations in anticipation of whatever the Fed does. They’re looking at the economic data and trying to cypher out of that how that’s going to impact the Fed’s decision next week,” he said of investors.

The session began with unease over the Bank of England’s decision to grant emergency funding to Northern Rock bank, which was facing a possible liquidity crisis.

Northern Rock issued a profit warning and blamed the shortfall on credit market turmoil.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.64, or 0.13%, to 13,442.52, giving the blue chip index its best week since April.

Broader stock indicators likewise showed modest gains but managed their best week since mid-August. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.30, or 0.02%, to 1,484.25, and the Nasdaq composite index edged up 1.12, or 0.04%, to 2,602.18.

Government bond prices finished almost unchanged today. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 4.46% from 4.49% on Thursday.

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