Markets & Finance

Stocks' Losing Streak Continues


Major stock indexes fell for the fourth straight day Monday on soft sentiment toward earnings, according to Standard & Poor's Marketscope. Advances in the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average within the day were not sustained, as they failed to attract follow-through buying. The Nasdaq suffered the most, with chip groups hurt by a profit-warning from Germany's Infineon Technologies.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 24.38 points, or 0.23%, to close at 10,368.61. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 4.12 points, or 0.35%, to close at 1,163.75. The Nasdaq composite index fell 25.57 points, or 1.26%, to close at 2,008.70.

Tuesday will be a heavy day for earnings reports. Among the companies announcing fourth-quarter results are telecom BellSouth (BLS), IT outfit Computer Associates (CA), chemicals giant Dupont (DD), and heath-care products maker Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

Foremost on Tuesday's economic calendar is consumer confidence data for January. The Conference Board's gauge is seen falling to a 101.5 reading in January from 102.3 reading in the previous month

Crude oil prices rose 0.6% Monday to settle at $48.81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after ranging between $47.80 and $49.05 throughout the trading day.

In corporate news, American Express (AXP) reported a 17% increase in fourth-quarter earnings over the previous year, thanks to strong cardholder spending. The financial services firm earned $861 million, or 71 cents a share, compared to $763 million, or 59 cents a share last year. The earnings per share beat forecasters' expectations by a penny and pushed the stock up 1.29%.

Microsoft (MSFT) announced Monday that it will not appeal an interim European Union ruling requiring the software giant to produce a version of its Windows platform without the Media Player program. The first version of the operating system without the music and video playing program will be available in weeks, Microsoft said. The software giant also divulged some trade secrets to competitors, in accordance with the order, but said it would continue to appeal the case. Microsoft stock was up 0.08% after the announcement.

The Wall Street Journal reported that directors of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) are considering shifting some responsibilities of Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina among other executives, because they are dissatisfied with the printer and computer maker's recent performance. Sources told the newspaper, however, that Fiorina's job was secure. The company's stock was trading down 0.5%.

Agriculture products giant Monsanto (MON) on Monday said it will buy vegetable and fruit seed company Seminis Inc. for about $1.4 billion. Monsanto's stock was trading 6.27% lower.

Online bank E-Loan (EELN) on Monday announced it had reached a deal with online auction house eBay (EBAY) to provide financing to customers who buy cars and motorcycles on the web site. E-Loan's stock price was up 13.42%.

Monday's higher oil prices boosted energy stocks, including Exxon Mobil (XOM), which was up 1.37%.

Treasury Market

Treasuries finished Monday's session mixed, with longer-dated issues rising in price. The 10-year Treasury note's yield was slightly lower at 4.12%.

The dollar traded lower Monday, after a survey sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland group showed central banks were shifting stocks of reserves to the euro from the dollar. At the end of the day, the euro was at $1.3061.

World Markets

European stock markets closed mixed Monday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 9.20 points, or 0.19%, to close at 4,812.50. The index recouped some points after Wall Street opened slightly higher. Banks and pharmaceuticals put pressure on the market, while mining and energy stocks offered some gains.

Germany's DAX index was off 11.81 points, or 0.28%, to end the day at 4,201.89, as economic data showed German growth remained weak in the fourth quarter and new construction orders fell in November. Also putting pressure on the market was a Infineon's prediction of a decline in global demand for mobile phone handsets.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index lost 5.48 points, or 0.14%, to close at 3,848.71. Technology stocks declined following Infineon's report.

Asian markets finished mixed on Monday. Tokyo's Nikkei average gained 51.12 points, or 0.45%, to 11,289.49, boosted by gains in bank stocks and construction companies. Declines in technology stocks such as Sony and Elpida Memory limited the gains.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 94.03 points, or 0.70%, to close at 13,386.99, with properties leading losses.


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