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Stocks rise early, then slide backward

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Wall Street waffled before finishing lower Monday as oil prices seesawed and traders weighed lackluster earnings from Xerox Corp. against a surge in housing prices.

Investors were nervous about oil after crude futures’ rally on Friday. So stocks gave up early gains as oil crept upward; futures finally closed at $59 a barrel, up 35 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Stocks had advanced on news that the median price for existing homes in July was a record $219,000, a gain of 14.7 percent from the median, or midpoint, prices a year ago. That was the biggest jump in prices since November 1980 and another in a string of reports showing the nation’s economy continues to expand at a healthy pace.

But investors may stay on the sidelines until the Commerce Department releases its eagerly anticipated report on second-quarter gross domestic product numbers Friday, said Ed Peters, chief investment officer at PanAgora Asset Management Inc.

“A directionless market is usually a down market,” Peters said. “Right now, people are waiting instead of buying.”

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 54.70, or 0.51 percent, to 10,596.48.

Broader stock indicators were slightly lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which has gained for the last four weeks, fell 4.65, or 0.38 percent, to 1,229.03, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 13.00, or 0.60 percent, to 2,166.74. The drop sent the Nasdaq back into negative territory for the year.

Wall Street has been lukewarm about second-quarter earnings, although most companies have beaten expectations. This week will see another cascade of reports, including many of the top companies in the S&P 500.

“If anything is going to move the market this week, it’s going to be news on the earnings front, which so far has been favorable,” said Mark S. Jordahl, chief investment officer at US Bancorp Asset Management .

In other company news, Generic drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. rose 7 cents to $31.23 after it said it is acquiring rival Ivax Corp. in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $7.4 billion. The price is about a 14 percent premium to Ivax’s closing price of $22.88 on Friday. Ivax rose $2.29 to $25.17.

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