US stocks modestly higher as investors look to Fed

CHRISTINA REXRODE
FILE- In a Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, file photo, Trader Frank Cannarozzo, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.   Trading volume, the number of shares bought and sold each day, is down by a fifth from last year, more evidence that relatively few investors are pushing up stocks as Main Street folks abandon the market. "August is usually slow, but this is terrible," says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE- In a Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, file photo, Trader Frank Cannarozzo, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume, the number of shares bought and sold each day, is down by a fifth from last year, more evidence that relatively few investors are pushing up stocks as Main Street folks abandon the market. "August is usually slow, but this is terrible," says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The biggest story in the stock market Monday was Apple.

But that wasn't saying much.

Stocks nosed higher, but trading volume was light, even by the standards of August. Most investors were waiting for a big speech Friday by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

In the meantime, investors were searching for something to tell them what to do. And they weren't finding much.

Apple climbed $13.87, or 2.1 percent, to $677.09 and traded as high as $680.87, a record. A court ruled Friday that Samsung copied some of the features and designs of the iPhone and iPad. Samsung was ordered to pay $1 billion.

Apple, the biggest company in American history by market value, makes up more than 13 percent of the Nasdaq composite index, and 4.4 percent of the Standard & Poor's 500.

Its jump on Monday, while modest, helped the S&P climb two points to 1,413 and the Nasdaq rise seven to 3,076. The Dow Jones industrial average, which does not include Apple, fell nine points to 13,149.

"The market is kind of on hold until Jackson Hole," said Randall Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial Service outside Philadelphia. "Probably Apple is the only thing that's moving the market today."

Investors will scour Bernanke's remarks Friday for clues about whether the Federal Reserve will buy more government bonds or take other action to speed up the economic recovery.

And some investors doubted even that. The Fed's two previous rounds of bond-buying, in March 2009 and November 2010, were designed to lower interest rates, but short-term rates are already near zero.

"Who cares what the Fed's going to do?" said Steve Quirk, senior vice president of the trader group at TD Ameritrade in Chicago. "It's not effective anymore anyway."

Shares of Hertz and Dollar Thrifty also provided some action in an otherwise dull market. Both rose after Hertz announced it would buy its rival. Hertz shares jumped 13 percent, or $1.64, to $14.79. Dollar Thrifty rose $6, or 7.4 percent, to $87.

Best Buy climbed 66 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $17.96 after announcing that its founder would be able to pursue his plans to buy the company and take it off the public stock market.

But mostly, trading was quiet. Out of 18 trading days this month, the Dow has moved more than 1 percent only once. On five days it has been virtually flat, moving less than one-tenth of a percentage point.

In Europe, the debt crisis trudged along, but without any real steps forward or back.

On Monday, the head of Germany's central bank repeated that he opposed a bond-buying plan that could lower borrowing costs for countries like Spain and Italy but that would require Germany foot most of the bill.

Germany's finance minister and economy minister, also tired of paying for the rest of Europe's bailouts, weighed in over the weekend, saying they wouldn't give Greece more time to make the spending cuts that Germany has demanded.

But none of the comments came as a surprise, and bigger events lie ahead. German courts will decide next month whether Germany is constitutionally allowed to keep participating in bailouts.