Wall Street gained ground today as a weaker-than-expected reading on the U.S. manufacturing sector suggested the Federal Reserve might have to keep supporting the economy with stock-friendly low interest rates.  

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.3 percent, or 2.15 points, to 789.07, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.9 percent, or 138.46 points, to 15,254.03. Stocks are still near their all-time highs, which has many investors looking for a correction, or a steep drop, as part of the normal ebb and flow of the market.

Among the gainers were Zale Corp., 6.9 percent to $8.25; New York & Company Inc., 3.6 percent to $5.75; Target Corp., 2.2 percent to $71.05, and Nike Inc., 2.2 percent to $63.03.

The Institute for Supply Management said the purchasing managers index fell to 49 in May from 50.7 the prior month. Economists were expected a minor dip to 50.5 for the index, for which anything below 50 indicates contraction.

Investors are watching the Fed closely, waiting to see when chairman Ben S. Bernanke will deem the economy strong enough to continue to grow even with less government support.

In Europe, markets slipped despite modestly encouraging news on the region’s manufacturing sector. Markit said its gauge of manufacturing in the 17-nation euro area increased to 48.3 last month from 46.7 in April, indicating a slower contraction.  

London’s FTSE 100 posted the sharpest drop, falling 2 percent to 6,525.12 as Milan’s FTSE MIB dropped 0.9 percent to 17,058.05, Frankfurt’s DAX slowed 0.8 percent to 8,285.80 and Paris’ CAC 40 contracted 0.7 percent to 3,920.67.

The pound traded at $1.51 against the dollar, while the euro went for $1.31 and the Swiss franc fetched $1.07.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly in decline. Among those losing the most ground were Mulberry, down 3.2 percent to 10.69 pounds; Ferragamo, 2.7 percent to 23.63 euros, and Compagnie Financière Richemont, 2.5 percent to 83.70 Swiss francs.

The gainers included Inditex, up 1.5 percent to 97.22 euros, and Asos.com, which increased 1.4 percent to 39.70 pounds. 

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