Stocks reversed earlier losses Monday to finish mostly higher. The S&P 500 index challenged a key technical support level, but buyers took the momentum by late afternoon.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average increased 32.07 points, or 0.35%, to 9,186.04. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.67 points, or 0.27%, to 982.82. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was down 1.56 points, or 0.09%, to 1,714.06.
"Early weakness pushed the S&P 500 down to the bottom of its 2-month price consolidation, but there was not any follow-through selling, and buyers stepped in," notes S&P's MarketScope.
Investors continued to digest corporate earnings news Monday. Shares in HSBC (HBC) rose after the global banking giant reported better than expected earnings for the first half of 2003.
Before the bell, software maker Intuit (INTU) posted better-than-expected earnings per share for the third quarter, and U.S. Steel (X) reported a smaller second quarter loss vs. the previous year.
Insurance company MetLife (MET) beat Wall Street's earnings per share expectations and posted a higher second-quarter profit after Monday's closing bell. The Principal Financial Group (PFG) was also expected to report earnings after the session's close.
Among companies expected to report quarterly earnings on Tuesday are Gillette (G), Cisco Systems (CSCO), and Prudential Financial (PRU).
In Monday's other corporate news, biotechnology firm CV Therapeutics (CVTX) saw shares fall more than 20% after a September FDA review of the company's angina drug, Ranexa, was canceled.
Another biotech outfit, SangStat Medical (SANG), agreed to be acquired by Genzyme (GENZ). SangStat shares leapt 43% Monday, while Genzyme shares dipped slightly.
In other merger and acquisition news, General Electric (GE) agreed to sell its bond insurer unit for $2.16 billion to a consortium led by mortgage insurer PMI Group.
The America Online unit of AOL Time Warner (AOL) announced a deal with CareerBuilder.com to provide online career services content, replacing Monster Worldwide (MNST). Shares in Monster fell almost 14%.
In economic news, U.S. factory orders increased 1.7% in June, while shipments rose 1.1%. Both increases come on top of a revised 0.3% rise the previous month. The numbers met expectations.
The Commerce Dept. issued a correction for U.S. construction spending data released Friday. Spending rose 0.3% in June, as opposed to the originally stated unchanged level.
On the economic docket for Tuesday, the non-manufacturing ISM Index for July is expected to be released.
Prices of U.S. Treasuries finshed higher Monday, helped by early-session weakness in stocks and shifting asset allocations. The benchmark 10-year note's yield was 4.3%.
The uptick in June factory orders did not dent Treasury prices. "The as-expected result was virtually ignored by both stocks and bonds into the mountainous quarterly refunding that kicks off [Tuesday]," according to MMS International.
The U.S. Treasury is expected to issue $110 billion in bills and notes. On Tuesday, traders await a $24 billion auction of 3-year notes.
European stocks finished trading mixed Monday. In London, the Times-Stock Exchange 100 rose 1.7 points, or 0.04%, to 4,100.1, bolstered by strength in HSBC. The U.K. July Construction Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 55.9 from 53.3 in June. In Germany, the DAX Index was down 33.58 points, or 0.98%, to 3,405.31. In France, the CAC 40 lost 27.63 points, or 0.87%, to 3,142.
In Asia, major stock indexes ended lower, presured by Friday's sell-off in the U.S. Japan's Nikkei index was lower by 158.88 points, or 1.65%, to 9,452.79, with high-tech stocks leading the losses. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 65.46 points, or 0.64%, to 10,183.14.