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Stocks Trade Mixed Out of the Gate

The three major indices open to trade around the flatline Tuesday as traders await a host of economic data.

Updated from 9:10 a.m. EDT

While traders waited for a bevy of economic data to be released during the day's session, stocks experienced narrowly mixed trading at the open Tuesday.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

stumbled 24 points to 11,362, and the

S&P 500

shed 4 points to 1261. The

Nasdaq

was up half a point to 1267.

During the first trading day of the week, volume was thin and buying ambition was low as concerns about the financial sector translated into broad selling and losses of about 2% for each of the three major indices.

Investors were wringing their hands over a potential takeout of

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

, whose exposure to bad credit has left its stock on the ropes and management facing questions about its strategy.

Fitch's worries about insurance giant

AIG

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and investment losses at

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Report

also hurt sentiment.

With a new day, angst about U.S. financial institutions was persisting.

The Wall Street Journal

reported that federal regulators have sent "memorandums of understanding," documents that can force banks to raise capital or reduce exposure to high-risk assets, to as many as six banks, including

National City

(NCC)

,

Imperial Capital

(IMP)

,

First State

undefined

and

BankUnited Financial

(BKUNA)

.

The memorandums represent efforts by the

TheStreet Recommends

Federal Reserve

and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to head off failures, the report said. Nine banks have failed this year, and five of those have gone under since mid-July. The most recent casualty occurred last week, when a Kansas bank was shut down.

In the technology space, PC maker

Hewlett-Packard

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has completed its purchase of

Electronic Data Systems

(EDS)

. H-P had announced the $13.3 billion deal in May.

Ahead of its merger with

Northwest Airlines

(NWA)

,

Delta

(DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report

said it took out a $1 billion loan to increase its cash position as it finalizes the joining of the two companies.

In earnings news, mining company

Rio Tinto

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announced earnings for the first half of 2008 that increased from a year ago and beat analyst estimates.

Specialty retailers

Chico's FAS

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and

American Eagle

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reported quarterly results that declined year over year but came in ahead of expectations. Meanwhile, discount-store operator

Big Lots

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posted rising profits and beat the Street's forecasts.

Smithfield Foods

(SFD)

appeared headed for a tougher day after it swung to a first-quarter loss on rising commodity costs.

As for economic data, the Conference Board's measure of August consumer confidence is due later this morning, as is the Census Bureau's read on July new-home sales. Traders also will be paying attention to the Fed's minutes from its Aug. 5 policy meeting. At that gathering, the central bank elected to keep its target interest rate at 2%, which is where it's been since April.

Shortly before trading began, the June Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index fell 15.4% from a year ago. The index declined 0.5% from May to June.

In commodities, the price of crude oil was rising $1.21 to $116.32 a barrel. Gold was giving back $3.70 to $822 an ounce.

In the fixed-income area, Treasuries were edging downward. The 10-year note down 2/32 and yielding 3.79%. The 30-year was giving back 4/32 to yield 4.4%. The dollar was gaining against the euro and pound, but slightly lower vs. the yen.

Overseas markets were mostly selling off, as the FTSE in London, the Dax in Frankfurt, the Nikkei in Japan and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong all trading lower.