NEW YORK - Wall Street closed an erratic session moderately higher Tuesday after investors sorted through a mixed batch of data that included a rebound in New York manufacturing, signs of rising inflation and uneven first-quarter earnings. The market also had its eye on the rising price of crude oil.
Following a spate of disappointing readings on the economy, investors were pleased that the New York Federal Reserve reported regional manufacturing expanded modestly in April, after shrinking at a record clip in March. The market had expected another contraction.
And in a positive sign for earnings, health care products maker Johnson & Johnson said its first-quarter profit jumped 40 percent on rising sales and declining costs. Results from the maker of consumer staples ranging from baby shampoo to pharmaceuticals came as a relief to investors, who have been unimpressed by most first-quarter earnings so far.
Still, the market remains anxious about inflation. As crude oil prices surged to a record $114 a barrel, and retail gasoline and diesel prices reached new highs, the Labor Department's Producer Price Index registered a much higher-than-anticipated 1.1 percent rise for March. The core index, which strips out food and energy prices, rose by 0.2 percent, as expected.
Core producer price increases have slowed over the past three months, so most investors are not too worried that inflation will keep the Federal Reserve from lowering interest rates again if the economy weakens further. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 60.41, or 0.49 percent, at 12,362.47.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.11, or 0.46 percent, to 1,334.43, while the Nasdaq composite index added 10.22, or 0.45 percent, to 2,286.04.