Stocks slide on housing woes

Dow, S&P, Nasdaq all fall after existing home sales report revives worries about mortgage market, credit crunch.

By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks slipped Monday after a disappointing existing home sales report revived worries about the mortgage and credit markets.

Stocks were also vulnerable after last week's big rally.


The Dow Jones industrial average (down 56.74 to 13,322.13, Charts) lost 0.4 percent, according to early tallies, while the broader S&P 500 (down 12.58 to 1,466.79, Charts) index lost almost 0.9 percent. The tech-fueled Nasdaq Composite (down 15.44 to 2,561.25, Charts) lost 0.6 percent.

The Russell 2000 (down 9.48 to 789.45, Charts) small-cap index fell 1.3 percent.

Treasury prices rose, lowering the corresponding yields. The dollar rose versus the euro and fell versus the yen.

Oil prices rose and gold prices fell.

Here's a look at what was moving near the close.

Stocks opened lower and fell anew after a report showed that existing home sales dropped in July, and the number of homes on the market jumped to a 16-year high.

The report countered last Friday's new home sales reading, which showed some recovery for the sector.

"People are paying very close attention to the housing market and we're going to keep seeing this back and forth with the data," said Russell Lundeberg, Jr., chief investment officer at Barrett Capital Management.

On the upside, underlying economic conditions still look pretty robust outside the housing market, Lundeberg said. Meanwhile, corporate earnings remain decent.

Yet, "I think people are still hesitant to believe that the worst is over," he added.

Stocks have had a tough summer as worries about tightening of the credit markets and fallout in the housing market caused investors to dump stocks in favor of Treasury bonds and other safe-haven investments. However, last week brought a brief reprieve.

Stocks rallied last week, with the Dow and S&P 500 adding around 2.3 percent, while the Nasdaq gained almost 2.9 percent as investors welcomed signs that the economy is holding up outside of housing.

Reassurance was also provided by the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world, which have infused billions into their banking systems to keep money flowing.

Investors are now hoping that the Federal Reserve will cut a key short-term interest rate -- one that affects consumer loans -- at its policy meeting next month. The central bank already cut the discount rate, which affects bank loans.

But after last week's big run, stock investors were more cautious Monday, particularly amid continued signs that the recent buyout boom could be waning.

To that effect, Home Depot (up $0.57 to $35.25, Charts, Fortune 500), a Dow component, has reportedly slashed the price for the sale of its supply business to private equity firms to $8.5 billion from $10.3 billion. The shortfall reflects the credit market jitters that have weighed on investors this summer.

Yet, Gateway (up $0.61 to $1.82, Charts) stock rallied 50 percent after Taiwan's Acer agreed to buy the computer maker for $710 million.

Duke Energy (down $0.72 to $17.82, Charts, Fortune 500), Exelon Corporation (down $3.00 to $70.14, Charts, Fortune 500) and American Electric Power (down $1.70 to $45.07, Charts, Fortune 500) were among the stocks dragging down the Dow Jones Utilities (down 15.99 to 482.81, Charts) index by nearly 3 percent.

A variety of housing, financial and metals and mining stocks also slipped.

Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners by 11 to 5 on volume of 1.07 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers three to two as 1.33 billion shares changed hands.

Treasury prices rose, lowering the yield on the 10-year note to 4.58 percent from 4.61 percent late Friday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

In currency trading, the dollar rose versus the euro and eased against the yen.

U.S. light crude oil for October delivery rose 88 cents to $71.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

COMEX gold fell $1.30 to $676.20 an ounce. Top of page