U.S. Stocks Close Higher

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The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 32 points at 11,382. That followed a day of fluctuations. The market opened sharply lower as traders reacted to oil prices that rose to $142 a barrel. Bargain-hunters took stocks into positive territory.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

For the third day in a row, the Dow Industrial slipped into bear market territory, down 20 percent from its peak, before recovering to hover just above that threshold.

All three major indexes closed slightly higher today. As NPR's Curt Nickisch reports, many small investors are shrugging their shoulders at this market.

CURT NICKISCH: While the Dow Industrial spent much of the day in the bear's grasp, the closest some household investors came to seeing bears was Bubba and Smokey.

The two black bear cubs just went on its play at the zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

Mr. WILLIAM CAMERON (Engineer): These are the bears I like. I like to see the black bears - those are the good ones. The Wall Street ones are not - they're not that good.

NICKISCH: William Cameron, a local engineer, is very worried about his retirement savings which have really been taking a hit. But he doesn't want to take a loss and moving to something more stable because he could lose a second time as the stock market bounces back.

Mr. CAMERON: You know, something breaks somewhere and then that'll - back in the bull market or the bear market continues, you know? You just have to wait and see what happens.

NICKISCH: Catherine Webb is a little more pessimistic. The substitute teacher from Maine brought her four kids here to see the new bear cubs, and she's resigned to dealing with a bear market, too.

Ms. CATHERINE WEBB (Teacher): It's just dropping every day. I don't see it improving for a long time.

NICKISCH: Still, she's also leaving her investment to loan. She's just not putting any more money into them.

Ms. WEBB: Don't ask why. I can spend it on my kids instead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NICKISCH: They're laughing nervously, but Webb and Cameron are actually pretty typical of what financial planners have been seeing lately.

Ms. BARBARA ATTARDO (Director in Charge, Tofias Financial Advisors): I don't see any panic at all.

NICKISCH: Barbara Attardo is with Tofias Financial Advisors in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She says she's actually gotten very few calls from clients, fretting about whether to liquidate. She thinks people learn from when the tech bubble burst and they're more realistic about ups and downs.

Ms. ATTARDO: We're down right now, but we're close to the loans that we were in January. It's not like we haven't been here before.

NICKISCH: Attardo says people could lose their patience with the market if it starts dropping off more sharply. But for now, she says most average investors aren't seeing bears or bulls, they're just waiting to see.

Curt Nickisch, NPR News.

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