Stocks on hold ahead of Fed

@CNNMoneyInvest March 12, 2012: 4:28 PM ET
U.S. stocks

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Stock closed mixed, after moving in a narrow range for most of the trading day.

With little on the economic or corporate docket, investors adopted a wait-and-see stance Monday, ahead of the Federal Reserve's meeting and economic reports due later in the week.

"Volumes are dead quiet today," said Douglas DePietro, head of equity trading at Evercore Partners. "Everyone is waiting for the big news later in the week."

The Federal Reserve is expected to announce Tuesday that it will leave key interest rates unchanged at very low levels -- but investors will be looking for clues as to how the central bank plans to proceed in the coming months.

Investors are also anxiously awaiting the Fed's report on how U.S. banks fared during the latest round of stress tests, which is due out Thursday. "The market could see a negative reaction if all the banks pass stress tests, but the Fed won't let them deploy much capital," DePietro said.

Shares of several large banks slid roughly 1% Monday, including Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), Credit Suisse (CS) and Jefferies (JEF).

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed 38 points higher, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 (SPX) edged up 0.2 points, or 0.02%. The Nasdaq (COMP) lost 5 points, or 0.2%.

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U.S. stocks finished higher for a third straight day Friday, after the government's monthly jobs report modestly exceeded expectations.

Also on Friday, Greece struck a deal with its private-sector creditors that will pave the way for the nation to secure new bailout funds and stave off a disorderly default.

Greece's deal triggered credit default swaps -- derivatives contracts that investors use to insure against default. But the Greek CDS market is very small and not expected to be disruptive to financial markets.

Companies: Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) shares also fell because the bank said Friday it would significantly slash mortgage balances for as many as 200,000 borrowers, as part of the $26 billion settlement reached between the five major mortgage servicers.

Youku (YOKU) and Tudou (TUDO) -- often called the YouTubes of China -- announced a merger Monday that sent Tudou shares up by a whopping 127%. The new venture will be called Youku Tudou Inc.

Carnival (CCL) shares edged higher. The cruise line posted a quarterly loss on Friday, but said bookings were up.

Shares of PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500) rose after the company announced that Brian Cornell has rejoined the company as CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods and John Compton will become president of PepsiCo.

Shares of clothing retailer Urban Outfitters (URBN) moved higher in aftermarket trading, even though the company missed analysts earnings forecasts.

Economy: The February Treasury Budget report showed a higher-than-expected of $231.7 billion. Analysts had forecast a $229 billion, up from $222.5 billion in February 2011.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose above the $3.80 mark Monday, resuming the advance that has plagued drivers throughout the winter.

The average price rose nine-tenths of a cent, according to the survey of gas stations conducted for the motorist group AAA. It was the third straight advance, with prices gaining 3.4 cents a gallon over Saturday and Sunday.

World markets: China reported a trade balance deficit of $31.5 billion for the month of February, far exceeding expectations.

Meredith Whitney was right

Imports for the month surged 39.5% over the same period last year, easily outdistancing export growth -- which checked in at 18.4%.

Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) slid 0.2% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) fell 0.4%, while the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong rose 0.2%.

European stocks closed just above the break-even line. Britain's FTSE 100 gained (UKX) 0.06%. France's CAC 40 (CAC40) moved up 0.04%. The DAX (DAX) in Germany added 0.25%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the Japanese yen, but rose versus the British pound. The greenback was little changed against the euro.

Oil for April delivery slipped $1.06 to $106.34 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $11.70 to $1,699.80 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 2.03% from 2.04% late Friday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,191.37 -195.84 -1.13%
Nasdaq 4,637.99 -43.50 -0.93%
S&P 500 2,002.16 -27.39 -1.35%
Treasuries 1.72 -0.10 -5.53%
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Apple Inc 115.31 6.17 5.65%
Bank of America Corp... 15.20 -0.43 -2.75%
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Microsoft Corp 41.19 0.00 0.00%
Facebook Inc 76.24 0.46 0.61%
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