NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock markets were lower Monday as investors considered corporate mergers news and a second-straight month of gains in existing-home sales.
Sales of previously owned homes in May rose 4.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million homes. The monthly gain was the fastest since August 2011, but even with the increase, sales were still 5% below the pace in May 2013.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.02% to 16,906.62. The S&P 500 was down 0.02% to 1,959.79. The Nasdaq declined 0.1% to 4,362.82 The S&P 500 closed higher by 1.38% last week and the Dow inched closer toward 17,000, driven by the Federal Reserve's reaffirmation of supportive monetary policy but restrained from further upside by the continue conflict in Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Iraq on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as radical Sunni militants seized control of one city after another in their violent advance toward Baghdad. There have been calls for al-Maliki to resign from his post amid growing doubt that he'll be able to form a new, inclusive government to ease the crisis in Iraq.
Stocks to watch Monday include Oracle (ORCL), Micros Systems (MCRS), Micron (MU) and General Electric (GE). Oracle said that it has reached an agreement to buy Micros Systems for $5.3 billion, or $68 per share in cash. Micros Systems was gaining 3.4% to $67.98. Micron Technology, the flash memory giant, is expected by Wall Street on Monday to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of 70 cents a share on revenue of $3.89 billion. Shares were up 0.3% ahead of the report. The final obstacle to General Electric's $17 billion takeover of Alstom's power division has been overcome after the French government agreed to terms with the French engineering company's main shareholder. GE fell 1.1% to $26.67.
In more company headlines, BNP Paribas and U.S. prosecutors have agreed to broad terms of a deal in which the bank would pay $8 billion to $9 billion and accept other punishment based on what investigators said is evidence the bank intentionally hid $30 billion of financial transactions that violated U.S. sanctions, the Journal reported, citing people close to the investigation.
-- By Andrea Tse in New York