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NEW YORK - The main U.S. stock benchmarks survived an afternoon challenge Tuesday, managing to hold on to gains and break multisession losing streaks after an earlier rally lost steam.

The day got off to a promising start, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 170 points at one point. But those gains dwindled throughout the day, and the Dow average finished up 57.14 points to snap a seven-session losing streak.

Alcoa and Microsoft, which rose 2.1 percent and 2.4 percent respectively, led the index. Consumer discretionary stocks were the main counterweight. Home Depot fell 1.5 percent, Boeing was off 0.9 percent, and American Express fell 0.5 percent.

Despite the finish in positive territory, investors remained focused on the flow of weak data in the past week, mostly out of the United States, that has cast doubt on recent signs of recovery. A report Tuesday on nonmanufacturing economic activity was weaker than expected, though investors said it wasn't pronounced enough to offer a clear signal to the market.

"Last week was so bad that I think they tried to get a relief rally going, but there's not a lot of love out there," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Management.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index finished up 5.48 points, and the Nasdaq eked out a 2.09-point gain.

"It's very hard to develop any positive momentum in the summer, and unless unemployment and housing news gets better," Landesman said, the S&P 500 could be expected to "test lows of either 1,000 or 980."