Stocks Inch Higher as Oil Falls

Crude oil futures dipped below $66 in choppy trading, while Dell delayed filing second-quarter results

Major stock indexes finished modestly higher in a volatile session Monday, as investors marked the fifth aniversary of the World Trade Center attacks and commodities futures declined. A pair of computer makers dealt with regulatory issues, while speeches from Federal Reserve officials soothed some economic jitters.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 4.73 points, or 0.04%, to 11,396.84. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 0.62 points, or 0.05%, to 1,298.54. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite gained 7.46 points, or 0.34%, to 2,173.25.

NYSE breadth was negative, with 18 issues declining for every 15 advancing. Nasdaq breadth was 16-14 negative.

The fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks was in focus at the outset Monday. A newly released Al Qaeda video threatened attacks on Israel and Gulf Arab States. Meanwhile, officials and mourners held a memorial ceremony at Ground Zero. President George W. Bush visited the site Sunday.

Investors were also weighing a drop in oil prices. In the energy markets, October West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed down 64 cents at $65.61 a barrel in choppy trading, extending last week's decline amid ample supply expectations. Shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) fell.

Among other stocks to watch, Dell (DELL) was lower as the computer maker delayed filing its second-quarter report and suspended its stock buyback program as a result of ongoing accounting probes.

Rival Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) was higher as its board meets for a second straight day to discuss the aftermath of a probe into news leaks that may result in criminal charges.

Soupmaker Campbell Soup (CPB) edged higher after the company posted 54% lower profit for its fiscal fourth quarter despite a rise in sales.

M&A activity continued to percolate. Canadian steel producer Ipsco (IPS) said it is buying steel-tube maker NS Group (NSS) for about $1.46 billion in cash, a 43% premium to the Kentucky-based company's Friday closing price.

Also on the deal front, General Electric (GE) was higher following a report the company may spin off its NBC broadcasting unit.

Elsewhere, Coca-Cola (KO) opened a $25 million bottling plant in Afghanistan, the only major business to launch there in more than 10 years.

On the economic docket, Boston Fed President Cathy Minehan said the Fed must remain vigilant toward inflation, while St. Louis Fed President Bill Poole reiterated that the Fed's position on interest rates is data-dependent.

The week's data releases kick off on Tuesday with July international trade figures, followed by the August Treasury budget on Wednesday. Reports later in the week include retail sales, business inventories, inflation, industrial production, and consumer sentiment.

European markets finished mixed Monday, recovering from session lows. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index lost 28.5 points, or 0.48%, to 5,850.8. Germany's DAX index edged up 3.2 points, or 0.06%, to 5,798.46. In Paris, the CAC 40 index dropped 15.26 points, or 0.3%, to 5,058.31.

Asian markets ended sharply lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 286.08 points, or 1.78%, to 15,794.38. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index declined 197.17 points, or 1.15%, to 16,948.59. Korea's Kospi index retreated 20.81 points, or 1.54%, to 1,334.08.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields ticked higher following a report the market misinterpreted the dovishness of the recent Fed minutes. The 10-year note fell in price to 100-19/32 for a yield of 4.8%, while the 30-year bond dropped to 93-04/32 for a yield of 4.94%.

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