NEW YORK — Encouraging news on the U.S. economy wasn’t enough to give the stock market its fourth straight day of gains.
Manufacturing grew faster in April than in March as exports picked up and factories accelerated hiring. U.S. shoppers ramped up their spending in March at the fastest pace in 4½ years and construction spending also ticked higher. The reports, coming a day after the Commerce Department said U.S. growth stalled in the January-March quarter, suggest that the economy is gaining momentum after the unusually harsh winter.
The market remains close to its all-time highs, but for now investors, uncertain about which way the economy is headed, appear reluctant to push stocks higher.
“The data was good, but not robust enough to completely eliminate doubts over whether the first quarter was entirely weather-related,” said Anthony Valeri, an investment strategist for LPL Financial.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.27 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,883.68. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 21.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,558.87. The Dow closed at an all-time high on Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,127.45.
Investors’ reaction to the economic reports was also likely muted ahead of Friday’s April jobs report, Valeri said. Economists are predicting U.S. employers added 210,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.
On Thursday, stocks moved between small gains and losses for most of the day as investors also assessed the latest round of company earnings and reports of a potential deal.
DirecTV climbed $3.16, or 4.1 percent, to $80.76 after The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T had approached the satellite TV provider about a possible acquisition. A deal would likely be worth about $40 billion, the Journal reported. The report came after news Wednesday that power company Exelon agreed to buy Pepco Holdings for $6.8 billion.
“That corporate balance sheet, which was very conservative for a while, is starting to unlock,” said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust.
In earnings news, Avon Products slumped $1.56, or 10.2 percent, to $13.72 after the beauty products company said its first-quarter loss widened, stung by volatile currency moves in Venezuela and weak revenue across all regions.