Stocks retreat anew

Dow and S&P 500 retreat for fourth straight session as investors step back after recent rally; Nasdaq tumbles for 2nd session; Dow transportation average gets slammed.

By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks slumped Monday, with the blue chips falling for the fourth session in a row, as investors eyed a $45 billion deal in utilities, but nonetheless opted to bail out of a variety of sectors.

The Nasdaq (down 10.58 to 2,504.52, Charts) composite fell 0.4 percent, falling for the second session in a row.


The S&P 500 (down 1.82 to 1,449.37, Charts) index and the Dow Jones industrial average (down 15.22 to 12,632.26, Charts) both saw smaller losses, and declined for the fourth session in a row.

Treasury prices rallied, lowering the corresponding yields. The dollar declined versus other major currencies. Oil and gold prices advanced.

The rise in oil and gold prices was keeping inflationary concerns up front, said Donald Selkin, director of research at Joseph Stevens. In addition, the weakness in the broader financial sector Monday added to last week's worries about subprime lenders, he said.

"There's no real impetus to move higher here," Selkin said. "Most of the earnings are out and the Fed is looking like they're not going to cut interest rates any time soon."

He said that over the next few days, investors will be sorting through the bevy of economic news that is on tap, including reports due Tuesday on durable goods orders, consumer confidence and existing home sales.

After the close Monday, Apple Computer (Charts) said its Apple TV will be delayed until mid-March.

Monday's market

News that utility TXU has agreed to be taken private in a $45 billion cash-and-debt deal highlighted a busy day for merger announcements and speculation Monday.

However, the deals failed to rev up a stock market that has been in retreat most recently. After the Dow hit a record high early last week, and the Nasdaq and S&P 500 hit more than six-year highs, all three struggled through Friday.

"TXU is a mega deal, but I think the market is tired regardless," said Tom Schrader, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Legg Mason.

The recent rally follows more than 7 months of gains for the three major gauges.

Oil prices rose, building on several sessions of gains.

U.S. light crude oil for April delivery rose 25 cents to settle at $61.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

That weighed on the stocks of companies that depend directly on fuel prices, including airlines, truckers and railroads.

Continental led the list of airline stocks sliding, dragging down the Amex Airline (Charts) index by over 1 percent.

Airlines, as well as a variety of truckers and railroads contributed to the decline for the Dow Transportation Average (down 122.21 to 5,036.72, Charts), which lost 2.4 percent.

Financial stocks tumbled too, including brokerages Merrill Lynch (down $2.38 to $86.66, Charts) and Morgan Stanley (down $2.45 to $78.52, Charts).

Among other movers, Merck (up $1.54 to $44.48, Charts) rose on a Citigroup upgrade and fellow Dow component Coca-Cola (up $0.46 to $47.72, Charts) rose on a Deutsche Bank upgrade.

Market breadth was narrowly negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers and winners were roughly even on volume of 1.56 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners beat advancers three to two on volume of 1.90 billion shares.

Another 'Merger Monday'

A big day for deals was headed by TXU (up $7.91 to $67.93, Charts), which agreed to a $45 billion cash and debt buyout led by two private equity firms and the private equity unit of investment bank Goldman Sachs. The deal is the largest private equity buyout in history. (Full story)

Dow Chemical (up $1.54 to $44.99, Charts) rose on speculation that it will get a leveraged buyout bid too - one that could be worth up to $54 billion, according to published reports.

Station Casinos (up $3.20 to $86.50, Charts) agreed to be taken private for $5.4 billion by a firm led by its management.

Temple-Inland (up $7.06 to $62.01, Charts) said it plans to spin off its real estate and financial services units and also sell its timberland business. Shares jumped around 13 percent.

Tribune (up $0.11 to $30.81, Charts) was active on reports that Chicago real estate developer Sam Zell is looking to buy the newspaper publisher.

COMEX gold for April delivery rose $3.10 to settle at $689.80 an ounce.

Treasury prices rose, lowering the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 4.62 percent from 4.67 percent late Friday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

In currency trading, the dollar fell versus the euro and the yen ahead of a surge of economic news due later in the week.

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