Stocks Close Modestly Lower - TheStreet

Stocks Close Modestly Lower

Energy shares sink.
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Updated from 4:17 p.m. EST

The recent sluggishness for U.S. stocks continued Monday, and the major averages started a new week by closing modestly to the downside.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

shed 28.28 points, or 0.22%, to 12,552.55, and the

Nasdaq Composite

was off 9.44 points, or 0.38%, at 2450.38. The

S&P 500

slipped 4.69 points, or 0.33%, to 1433.37.

Last week, the New York market had trouble keeping momentum, and the Dow and the Nasdaq each lost about 0.6%. Friday was especially tough for tech, as the Nasdaq slumped nearly 29 points, or 1.2%, to 2459.82.

One of the key stories of the session was a selloff in energy. Crude oil futures dropped $2.08 to $57.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and natural gas plunged 60 cents to $7.23 per million British thermal units.

The steep drop came after Saudi Arabia's oil minister indicated OPEC probably wouldn't try to implement new production cuts when its member nations meet again in March.

Prominent players like

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

,

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

,

Halliburton

(HAL) - Get Report

and

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

all dropped.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Services Sector index lost 1.4%, and the Amex Oil Index declined 1.3%.

As is not uncommon after a weekend, several companies were making M&A news. Among the deals, India's Hindalco will buy

Novelis

(NVL)

in a deal worth about $6 billion, and

Tenaris

(TS) - Get Report

will acquire

Hydril

(HYDL)

for $2.16 billion.

Meanwhile, two other potential unions appear to be finished.

Nasdaq Stock Exchange's

I:IXIC

$5.3 billion bid for the London Stock Exchange has failed, and rumored talks between

Sanofi-Aventis

(SNY) - Get Report

and

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

have come to an end, according to a published report.

Dow component

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

added 1.1% to $41.44 after the seller of home-improvement goods said it might consider a sale or spinoff of its supply unit. The division has roughly $12 billion in annual sales.

Turning to the day's research calls, Keefe Bruyette upgraded

MasterCard

(MA) - Get Report

to market-perform from underperform, and

Southwest Air

(LUV) - Get Report

was upgraded by Bear Stearns to outperform from peer-perform.

Elsewhere,

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

was upgraded to buy from hold at Citigroup, Credit Suisse raised its price target on

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

by $15 to $125, and Banc of America moved

GM

(GM) - Get Report

to its list of least favorite stocks.

Roughly 2.4 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

, and on the Nasdaq, about 1.9 billion shares traded. Losers beat winners 3 to 2.

Treasury prices were on the decline. The 10-year note was down 5/32 to yield 4.80%, and the 30-year bond was falling 10/32 in price, yielding 4.89%. The dollar was weaker against the euro and the pound but up vs. the yen.

April-dated gold contracts eased $5 to close at $667.30 an ounce.

Overseas, major equity measures were lower in Europe. London's FTSE 100 was down 0.5% to 6354, and Frankfurt's Xetra DAX was off 0.8% at 6859. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.4% to 20,593. Tokyo's market was closed.