Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Up Slightly


Investors liked a sharp rise in a key consumer sentiment gauge and another round of M&A news, but energy stocks suffered from a drop in oil

Stocks recovered late in the trading session to finish up slightly on Tuesday. Several big stocks dragged down indexes, but other stocks benefited from more M&A deals and news that consumer confidence is improving.

A drop in oil prices seemed to be hurting Exxon Mobil (XOM), pushing down the Dow and S&P 500, Standard & Poor's says. Oil and gas stocks were down more than 1.33%, S&P says. General Electric (GE), Alcoa (AA), McDonald's (MCD) and Merck (MRK) also were down.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.1%, or 14.06 points, to 13,521.34. The broader S&P 500 index, was up 0.16%, or 2.38 points, to 1,518.11.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index gained 14.87 points, or 0.58%, to 2,572.06.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index came in at 108 in May, higher than the 105 that had been expected and up from 106.3 in April. Action Economics says gains for stocks seem to be offsetting rising energy prices, and housing worries may be fading.

Chris Johnson, of Johnson Research Group, said Tuesday's consumer data gave a relatively weak boost to stocks on Tuesday morning. That is a sign that stocks' recent rally may be losing strength, he said. Optimism has been building so fast, and so many investors are already so bullish, that there may be limited upside to the market. "When you look at the broader market right now, it's a market that's due for a rest," Johnson said.

A long list of economic data is expected during the rest of the week, including the May employment report and data on factory activity, construction spending and manufacturers' shipments, inventories and orders.

In the energy markets, July crude oil futures on the NYMEX were down $2.05 to $63.15. In Nigeria, the inauguration of a new president and the end of an oil workers' strike eased some concerns about instability in the oil-producing nation. The restarting of several refineries in the U.S. pushed down gas prices, Action Economics says.

Among stocks making headlines Tuesday, ABN Amro Holdings (ABN) was down slightly after the Royal Bank of Scotland launched a $95.6 billion hostile takeover bid, competing with a previous bid from Barclays.

Bioenvision (BIVN) was up 6.5% after it agreed to be acquired by Genzyme Corp. (GENZ) for about $345 million, or $5.60 per share, a premium of almost 7% from Friday's close.

Washington Group International (WNG) was up more than 20% after it agreed to be acquired by URS Corp. (URS) in a $2.6 billion deal. The terms are $43.80 in cash and 0.772 URS shares for each Washington Group share.

Archstone-Smith Trust (ASN) was up 11% after agreeing to be acquired by a partnership sponsored by Tishman Speyer Properties and Lehman Brothers in a deal valued at about $22.2 billion.

Advanced Medical (EYE) fell almost 14% after recalling its Complete MoisturePlus contact lens solution. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported problems with eye infections.

CT Communications (CTCI) was up almost 10 points after it agreed be acquired by Windstream Corp. for $31.50 per share, a 46% premium on Friday's closing price.

Tribune Co. (TRB) and Gannett (GCI) ended a deal under which Gannett would buy Tribune's newspapers in southern Connectict. Tribune says it will solicit other offers for the papers.

European stock markets were mixed on Tuesday. In London, the FTSE 100 index was up 0.55% to 6,606.50. Germany's DAX index was up 0.54% to 7,781.04. In Paris, the CAC 40 index 0.25% lower to 6,056.39.

Asian markets were also mixed. In Japan, the Nikkei index was up 0.48% to 17,672.56. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.29% to 20,469.59 and in China, the Shanghai Composite index was up 1.47% to 4,334.92.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices were down on Tuesday. The 10-year note fell 04/32 to 97-01/32 for a yield of 4.88%, and the 30-year bond also fell 04/32, finishing at 95-00/32 for a yield of 4.01%. Standard & Poor's says treasuries fell in response to higher-than-expected consumer confidence numbers and low demand for an auction of two-year Treasury notes. The 10-year treasury has been testing technical resistance at the yield level of 4.90% for the last three trading sessions, S&P says.

Steverman is a reporter for BusinessWeek's Investing channel.

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