Stocks Waver Between Gains and Losses in Midday Trade

(AP) -

The major U.S. stock indexes wavered between gains and losses in midday trading Monday. Telecommunications and health care stocks rose, but materials and energy companies lagged. Investors had their eye on the latest string of deal news, as well as a new report showing U.S. home sales slumped last month.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average edged up seven points to 17,609 as of 12:27 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down one point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,048. The Nasdaq composite added two points to 4,797. The market is coming off its fifth straight week of gains.

HOSPITABLE MOVE: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide climbed 4.1 percent after the company agreed to be acquired by rival hotel operator Marriott International. The buyout, which could be contested by China’s Anbang, would create the world’s biggest hotel company. Starwood rose $3.27 to $83.84. Marriott International slipped 87 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $72.30. Traders also sold off shares in hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide. It slumped $4.51, or 5.6 percent, to $76.28.

PAINT IT GREEN: Valspar vaulted 24.9 percent after the paint maker agreed to be acquired by competitor Sherwin-Williams for about $9 billion. Valspar gained $20.84 to $104.67. Sherwin slid $12.65, or 4.4 percent, to $276.04.

EXECUTIVE SHUFFLE: Valeant Pharmaceuticals jumped 8.6 percent after the company announced a succession plan to replace CEO Michael Pearson. Activist investor Bill Ackman will join the troubled company’s board. The stock added $2.31 to $29.29.

HOUSING SLUMP: Shares in most homebuilders fell following a report indicating that sales of previously occupied U.S. homes sank 7.1 percent last month. A limited inventory of homes for sale in many markets has driven home prices higher, reducing affordability and dampening sales. The trend could weigh on homebuilders, many of which rely on buyers who must sell their home before they can purchase a newly built one. Builder PulteGroup was among the biggest decliners. The stock was down 47 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $18.18.

NOT A GAS: Several energy companies were down as the price of natural gas headed lower. Range Resources lost 91 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $33.04, while Cabot Oil & Gas slid 79 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $21.98. Natural gas transport and storage company Oneok also fell. It was down $1.25, or 4.1 percent, to $29.57.

NO DEAL: Affymetrix slumped 9.9 percent after the maker of equipment used to analyze genetic codes rejected a bid from Original Technologies, preferring instead a rival offer that Thermo Fisher Scientific made in January. Affymetrix dropped $1.58 to $14.41. Thermo Fisher dipped 32 cents to $139.68.

DATA DEAL: Markit surged 10.9 percent after the data provider agreed to combine with competitor IHS in an all-stock deal valued at more than $13 billion. The new company, based in London, will be called IHS Markit. Shares in Markit rose $3.22 to $32.71.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was down 0.9 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.3 percent. Stocks were mixed in Asia. South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index slipped 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.3 percent. Markets in Japan were closed for a holiday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 65 cents, or 1.6 percent, at $40.09 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, was up 17 cents at $41.37 a barrel in London. Natural gas was down 5 cents, or 2.7 percent, at $1.86 per 1,000 cubic feet.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.90 percent from 1.88 percent late Friday. The euro rose to $1.1255 while the dollar rose to 111.65 yen.