Stocks shake off bigger losses

Dow and S&P 500 end lower after BofA earnings disappoint, and oil and gas prices spike to new records. But Nasdaq manages gains.

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By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

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NEW YORK ( -- Blue chips dipped and tech shares ended higher Monday as weaker-than-expected earnings from Bank of America gave investors a reason to hesitate after last week's big advance.

Record oil and gas prices also factored into the day's trade.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index both lost a few points, while the Nasdaq composite (COMP) gained 0.2%.

After the close, Texas Instruments (TXN, Fortune 500) reported quarterly earnings of 43 cents per share, in line with forecasts and up from 35 cents a year ago. Tuesday morning brings earnings reports from Coach (COH), DuPont (DD, Fortune 500) and McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500).

Stocks had been weaker in the morning as investors mulled the day's batch of earnings and opted to play it cautious after last week's strong rally.

"This is just a very modest pullback after the last 3 or 4 weeks of gains," said John Merrill, CIO, Tanglewood Capital Partners.

Stocks will continue to be volatile as investors sort through the spate of first-quarter earnings reports, trying to get a sense of how sectors - particularly those outside of financial - are handling the economic slowdown.

Last week Google, IBM, Intel, Caterpillar and even JPMorgan Chase reported results that beat forecasts. Plus, IBM and Intel issued upbeat current-quarter forecasts.

But JPMorgan was one of the few financial companies to beat expectations, with Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch and others disappointing investors. Citigroup's report was mixed, with the bank reporting a big loss, but higher-than-expected revenue.

With 21% of the S&P 500 having reported results, earnings are currently on track to have fallen 15% versus a year ago, according to the latest Thomson Financial estimates.

Monday's earnings. Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) was hit hard by the credit market fallout, with profit in the first quarter falling 77% to 23 cents per share from $1.16 a share a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of 41 cents per share. The stock lost 2.5%.

National City (NCC, Fortune 500) said it has raised $7 billion in capital after reporting big mortgage-related losses. The troubled Midwestern bank also reported a quarterly loss versus a profit a year ago, missing forecasts, and said it was cutting its dividend to 1 cent per share from 21 cents per share. National City shares tumbled 27.6% in active trade.

A variety of financial stocks slipped, including JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) and Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500).

Dow component Merck (MRK, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly earnings that topped estimates on higher sales that were short of forecasts. Fellow drugmaker Eli Lilly (LLY, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly sales and earnings that were short of forecasts.

Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, decliners beat advancers 8 to 7 on volume of 1.12 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, losers topped winners 4 to 3 on volume of 1.64 billion shares.

Commodity prices spike. U.S. light crude oil for May delivery rose 79 cents to settle at a record $117.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after touching an all-time trading high of $117.76 a barrel earlier.

The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas hit an all-time record of $3.503, AAA reported.

COMEX gold for June delivery rose $2.40 to settle at $917.60 an ounce.

Other markets. The dollar flirted with a new record low against the euro and declined versus the yen.

Treasury prices slipped, raising the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 3.72% from 3.71%. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions. To top of page

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