Updated from 1:34 p.m. EDT
Stocks in New York saw straggly trading in mostly negative territory Wednesday as traders, keeping a constant eye on fluctuating oil prices, seemed to pay little mind to any of the other rare bits of news that emerged.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
, which drove in and out of the green repeatedly throughout the day, was recently down 15 points at 12,534 amid pressure from financial components -- most prominently
gave up 2 points to 1383, and the
shed 7 points at 2475.
"We're looking at a commodities-driven market right now," said James Park, managing director with Rodman & Renshaw. "It's funny how that's changed from a couple of months ago when it was all about the credit markets."
"It's just a mixed bag today," he added. "People are trading very listlessly. We're definitely in holiday-week mode."
Matt King, chief investment officer with Bell Investment Advisors, concurred. "We really think we're going to be in a very narrow range out here," he said. "There's not much news moving these markets."
As for crude oil, futures lately were in stalwart recovery from an early slide, rising $2.31 at $131.16 a barrel.
Gold futures, meanwhile, lost $7.40 at $900.50 an ounce. Also, the U.S. dollar was adding 0.4% against both the euro and the yen. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its major counterparts, was up 0.3%.
But the major averages were weak despite those moves and a relatively positive report from the Commerce Department, which said that total orders of durable goods -- those designed to last three years or more -- fell just 0.5% sequentially last month. That's a bit worse than the prior month's 0.3% slip, but economists were expecting a 1.5% drop. Weighing heaviest was an 8% slide in transportation orders, without which total orders would have climbed 2.5%.
On the corporate front, the financial sector was sagging: the
Financial Sector Index recently plunging 1.1%, and insurance giant AIG lost 4.8% after Citigroup cut its price target on the firm. Other financial members of the Dow,
Bank of America
, shed 2.4% or more..
Elsewhere, agricultural processor and ethanol maker
Archer Daniels Midland
sank 3.9% after saying it will offer up to 35 million equity units for $50 apiece in an effort to raise $2 billion.
Separately, Dow component
current-quarter and full-year outlook
, though its largest bottler,
lost 5.5% after cutting its second-quarter guidance to a profit fall in the mid-to-high single digits. Coca-Cola shares were down 1.7%.
, meanwhile, announced that it has been forced to ramp up product prices by up to 20% as it's being bombarded by the soaring costs of energy, feedstock, and transportation. The price hike will take effect on June 1. Shares ticked up 0.8%.
Back in the financial patch, a German business paper reported that Sweden's SEB and France-based BNP Paribas and Societe Generale might be interested in trying to acquire Citigroup's Citibank unit. The banks are also reportedly eying Deutsche Postbank and
Dresdner Bank. Allianz rose 0.6%.
Meanwhile, merger discussions between United Airlines operator
evidently have fallen apart,
reported, citing people with direct knowledge of the talks. Shares of UAL slumped 5.5% as U.S. Airways lost 6.7%.
was among the winners, gaining 3.2% after saying it's pursuing an agreement to provide transportation in its air network for all of DHL's express, deferred and international package volume within the U.S. UPS also would provide airlift for DHL packages between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Also, a Detroit paper reported that carmaker
plans to slash its salaried work force by up to 12% as the company suffers from harsh economic conditions. Shares of Ford surrendered 1.2% following an early rise.
Treasury prices were losing ground. The 10-year note was down 22/32 in price to yield 4.01%, and the 30-year bond slid 27/32 in price, yielding 4.70%.
Markets abroad were mixed. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 sank 1.3% overnight, and the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.1%. Europe fared better however, as London's FTSE 100 rose 0.2% and Germany's Xetra Dax climbed 1.1%. The Paris Cac jumped 1.3%.