US stocks flip between slight gains and losses

Matthew Craft and Joe Mcdonald, AP Business Writers
Europe, Asia stocks up ahead of US data

Trader Glenn Kessler works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, July 28, 2014. The stock market is opening mixed at the start of a busy week as a batch of merger announcements lift shares in Family Dollar and other companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Major stock market indexes drifted between slight gains and losses Monday afternoon, as traders prepare for a week full of reports on the economy and corporate profits.

KEEPING SCORE: As of 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up two points, less than 0.1 percent, to 1,980. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 22 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,986 while the Nasdaq composite rose three points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,452.

FOR SALE: Family Dollar soared after Dollar Tree announced plans to buy the rival discount store for roughly $8.5 billion. Family Dollar has responded to recent struggles by cutting prices, shedding workers and closing stores. Last month, Carl Icahn, who has built up a stake in the company, urged Family Dollar to put itself up for sale. In afternoon trading, Family Dollar's stock shot up $14.34, or 24 percent, to $75, the biggest gain in the S&P 500.

HOUSE SURFING: Trulia jumped on news that Zillow, a rival real-estate listing service, said it has agreed to buy it for $3.5 billion. Boards of both companies have already signed off on the deal, but shareholders need to approve it. Trulia advanced $9.66, or 17 percent, to an even $66. Zillow gained $3.06, or 2 percent, to $161.76.

CHICKEN DEAL: Tyson Foods announced higher quarterly profits as well as a plan to sell its chicken business in Mexico and Brazil for $575 million in cash. The company said the sale to JBS SA, the Brazilian beef company, should be finished by the end of the year. Tyson Foods climbed $1.05, or 3 percent, to $40.59.

EARNINGS PARADE: Wall Street is in the middle of second-quarter earnings season, when big companies turn in their springtime results and tell investors how they think the rest of the year will shape up. This week, ExxonMobil and MasterCard are among the heavyweights posting earnings. American Express and Merck report Tuesday.

NOT BAD: So far, the news has been much better than many expected. Of the 229 companies that have posted results, nearly seven out of 10 have reported higher profits than analysts projected, according to S&P Capital IQ. Banks have been the big surprise.

RUSSIA: Tensions between Western powers and Russia remained a concern for investors. On Monday, an international court ordered Russia to pay over $50 billion to a group of investors for the expropriation of now-defunct oil company Yukos. The ruling comes as European countries are considering imposing sanctions on trade in defense, technology and other goods and restricting access to European capital markets for Russia's state-owned companies.

THE BIG PICTURE: "I think the market is doing what it should be doing," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners, a wealth management firm. "It's not getting sucked into all the bad news out there. Russia is lobbing bombs into Ukraine, and that appears like it could spiral out of control. The Middle East looks out of control. But the stock market is trading near an all-time high."

KEY REPORTS: A collection of major U.S. economic data comes out later this week. On Wednesday, the government will release a report on gross domestic product between April and June, and the Federal Reserve will release a statement when it wraps up a two-day meeting. On Friday, economists forecast that the monthly jobs report will show employers added between 235,000 and 255,000 workers to their payrolls in July.

EUROPE: In European markets, France's CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent while Germany's DAX shed 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent.

CHINA'S STABLE SIGNS: News that profits at China's industrial enterprises soared 17.9 percent in June over a year earlier suggested that the world's No. 2 economy has stabilized and gave Asian markets a boost. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index surged 2.4 percent.

CURRENCIES, OIL: The euro edged up to $1.3436 from the previous session's $1.3431. The dollar rose to 101.85 yen from 101.83 yen. The price of benchmark U.S. crude oil declined 36 cents to $101.73 per barrel.


McDonald reported from Beijing.