Election Keeps Stocks on Hold; Chips Rise

Who knew all it would take to settle down the market was to flip the calendar to November?

After all the turbulence and violent swings of October, this first day of November was like a nice fall breeze blowing in.

Stocks marched in place as investors held o ff on any fast moves until we see what happens on Tuesday, whether John McCain or Barack Obama will be the next U.S. president.

"Right now that money is sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens tomorrow," Jack Bouroudjian, a principal at Brewer Investment Group, said on CNBC.

A relief rally is expected on Wall Street for Tuesday, the day of the electifon, as business leaders and analysts continue to debate which candidate will be better for the economy.

The morning's economic data were mixed.

U.S. business conditions took a sharp downturn in the third quarter and the near-term outlook is even more gloomy, according to a quarterly survey conducted by the National Association for Business Economics.

The Institute for Supply Management reported its gauge of manufacturing activity dropped to 38.9in October, its lowest level in 26 years. Economists had expected a more modest drop to 42.

"The PMI indicates a significantly faster rate of decline in manufacturing when comparing October to September," said Norbert J. Ore, chairman of the ISM survey committee. "It appears that manufacturing is experiencing significant demand destruction as a result of recent events, with members indicating challenges associated with the financial crisis, interruptions from the Gulf hurricane, and the lagging impact from higher oil prices," Ore said.

Meanwhile, construction spending fell 0.3 percent in September, better than the 0.7-percent drop expected, and August spending was revised upward to a 0.3-percent increase.

The Nasdaq was the best performer of the three indexes, boosted by Biogen, which is expected to fare better than most in a slumping economy and chip stocks, which benefited from an upgrade.

Biogen shares advanced after Deutsche Bank gave the stock a "buy" rating and Robert W. Baird raised its rating to "outperform" from "neutral."

Nvidia climbed after Citigroup raised its rating to "buy" from "hold" on the graphics-chip maker, as well as STMicroelectronics and Integrated Device , saying it expects the sector to outperform in the next 12 months.

Shares of General Motors skidded after the auto maker reported its sales were nearly cut in half in October, though the auto giant managed to fend off Toyota for the No. 1 spot for at least another month. Ford's sales fell 30 percent while Toyota's dropped 26 percent.

There was some relief on the homefront as JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank and one of its biggest mortgage lenders, temporarily halted foreclosures Friday and offered to renegotiate a swathe of mortgages.

Oil drifted lower as leaders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have declared their intentions to cut production to defend prices.

Shares of energy leaders ExxonMobil and Chevron, both Dow components, declined.

Another Dow component, Boeing , slipped after the aerospace giant areached a four-year contract with its 27,000-member assembly workers union over the weekend. Despite the agreement.

Wal-Mart rose after JPMorgan raised its rating on the stock to "overweight."

(Track all 30 Dow stocks.)

Asian stocks closed higher as Seoul announced $11 billion in new spending and tax cuts and dismal Australian economic data cemented expectations that its central bank will slash rates again on Tuesday.

European markets were also mostly in the green as the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are expected to slash rates further when they meet on Thursday.

This Week:

MONDAY: Auto sales; Earnings after the bell from ADP, MasterCard and Viacom
TUESDAY: Election Day; factory orders; Dallas Fed president speaks
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; ADP employment report; ISM services report; weekly crude inventories; Earnings from Time Warner, Cisco and News Corp
THURSDAY: Monthly chain-store sales; weekly jobless claims; BOE, ECB announcements; Earnings from Anheuser-Busch
FRIDAY: Jobs report; pending-home sales; wholesale trade; consumer credit; Earnings from Ford, Sprint Nextel and Berkshire Hathaway

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.