Updated from 2:44 p.m. EDT
Stocks in New York were modestly lower Monday, unable to catch a break even with news on a trio of mega mergers.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell 78.69 points, or 1.2%, to 6548.25, and the
slunk back 6.7 points, or 1%, to 676.7. The
was lower by 24.96 points, or 1.9%, at 1268.89.
Industrials and financials were outperforming, though, with
Bank of America
leading the Dow with an 18% increase, and the KBW Banking Index rising 6%.
was the weakest Dow component, losing 11%, after proposing a $41 billion cash-and-stock deal, offering
shareholders 0.5767 of a Merck share and $10.50 in cash for each of their shares. Schering's have surged 16% higher.
Wall Street Journal
reported that the board of
is near a deal to sell the biotech staple to Swiss pharma company Roche for $95 per share, citing people familiar with the matter.
And in yet another a merger update,
Rohm & Haas
reached a settlement
for the $15 billion merger between the two firms, agreeing to close a deal no later than April 1, according to
Meanwhile, Washington continues to fixate investors, says Paul Nolte, Director of Investments at Hinsdale Associates. "The daily news briefing, the comments about the horrendous economy, floating the possibility of a new stimulus package (just after the second was signed) and little resolution to the banking crisis have kept investors from stepping into stocks with any confidence. In fact, many are stepping away and vowing to never return," he writes.
Stocks abroad lost ground after the U.K government said it was taking a greater, controlling stake in
Lloyds Banking Group
. In addition, the World Bank warned over the weekend that the world is falling into the first global recession since World War II.
became the latest bank to
. The company said that scaling back to 5 cents a share from 37.5 cents will preserve more than $500 million in capital annually.
dividend on Friday, following banks like
JP Morgan Chase
and Bank of America.
In other banking news,
, Vice Chairman Hans-Ulrich Doerig, in light of Walter Kielholz moving to become the Chairman of
reported that Bank of America is starting to withdraw offers to some MBA students that graduate from U.S. business schools this year, as one of the provisions of the TARP bailout money prevents the bank from applying for H1-B visas for immigrants if they have recently laid off U.S. workers.
Job cuts continue, as U.S. publisher
, which owns 30 daily newspapers, said it will slash 1,600 jobs, or about 15% of its workforce, as advertising sales struggle.
Not everyone is struggling under the tough economy, though.
posted a 1.4% rise in February sales at restaurants open at least 13 months, with help from strength in the U.S. Last week,
also had sales growth to report, and went against the grain by raising its dividend.
A few stem-cell stocks also got a boost Monday as President Obama signed an executive order that would reverse restrictions on stem cell research. Geron and
surged 21% and 52%, respectively.
, Piper Jaffray upgraded
to buy and raised its price target to $81 from $55. Also, Collins Stewart named
named a top pick.
In commodities, oil rose $1.55 to settle at $47.07 a barrel, and gold lost $24.70 to $918 an ounce.
Longer-dated Treasuries were falling. The 10-year note was losing 7/32 to yield 2.9%, and the 30-year was giving up 18/32, yielding 3.6%. The dollar was recently stronger against the yen, pound and euro.
Stocks overseas were mixed. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were slightly higher. But in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Japan's Nikkei closed lower by 1.2% and 4.8%, respectively.