Stocks seesaw as traders kick off busy week of economic, earnings reports

By Stephen Bernard, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Stocks waver at the beginning of a busy week

NEW YORK — Stocks wavered Monday as investors held back ahead of a busy week of economic and earnings reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10 points in morning trading after a report showed factory orders fell slightly more than expected in August, but pending home sales rose a bit more than forecast.

Analysts say the market was due for a pause following a historic rally in September, which brought a 10.4 percent gain in the Dow. The monthlong rally has come on relatively low volume, a sign that many investors are still waiting on the sidelines.

This week brings a number of potentially important news events for stocks, including the monthly jobs survey on Friday and earnings from Dow component Alcoa Inc. on Thursday, the traditional kickoff to the quarterly earnings season.

In corporate news, France’s Sanofi-Aventis launched an $18.5 billion hostile takeover offer for Genzyme Corp. Sanofi-Aventis’ previous offer was rejected by Genzyme’s board, so it is now taking the offer directly to shareholders. The offer, at $69 per share, is unchanged from Sanofi-Aventis’ original offer in July.

Swiss regulators said they will require the country’s two biggest banks, Credit Suisse Group and UBS AG, to hold more money in reserve than the amount required under newly agreed upon international standards.

The Dow rose 10.14, or 0.1 percent, to 10,839.74 in morning trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.46, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,145.78, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 6.16, or 0.3 percent, to 2,364.59.

Factory orders fell 0.5 percent in August, slightly worse than the 0.4 percent drop predicted by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. But the drop was largely due to a steep drop in commercial aircraft orders. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.9 percent.

The number of buyers that signed contracts to purchase homes rose in August by more than expected. The National Association of Realtors pending home sales index rose 4.3 percent, slightly better than the 2.5 percent jump economists predicted.

The housing market remains weak after a home buyer tax credit expired at the end of April. The pending home sales index is 20 percent below where it was just a year ago.

The week’s blitz of economic reports and the start of earnings season should provide insight into the economy and help give the market direction. With unemployment still at 9.6 percent, traders will be most closely be watching Friday’s monthly jobs report. Investors worry that the economy will continue to muddle along until unemployment drops and private employers start to ramp up hiring.

Sanofi-Aventis shares fell 2 cents to $33.10. Genzyme shares rose 8 cents to $70.96.

UBS shares fell 4 cents to $17.08, while Credit Suisse fell 9 cents to $43.15.

About three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange where volume came to 168.9 million shares.

Cautious investors continued to pour money money into bonds, sending Treasury prices higher and their yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, helps set interest rates on loans, fell to 2.48 percent from 2.51 percent late Friday.

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