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Stocks follow overseas markets lower after run-up

September 22, 2009|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Most stocks lost ground Monday as a stronger dollar pushed down commodity prices and investors grew jittery about the market's 6-month-old rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a loss of 41 points after being down 94 in morning trading. For weeks, investors looking to take part in the market's rally have been pouncing on any dips.

Gains in healthcare stocks helped support the market, and an agreement by Dell plan to buy technology services company Perot Systems for $3.9 billion drove some buying in tech stocks.

The market had a mixed reaction to the latest reading of the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, which came in just below analysts' forecasts but still posted a fifth consecutive monthly increase.

The gauge climbed 0.6% in August, just shy of the 0.7% increase economists expected, but still enough of a positive indicator to reinforce Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's pronouncement last week that the U.S. recession was "likely over" from a technical standpoint, even as unemployment remains high.

The Dow fell 41.34 points, or 0.4%, to 9,778.86. It has fallen in two of the last three sessions.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.64 points, or 0.3%, to 1,064.66, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 5.18 points, or 0.2%, to 2,138.04.

The Russell 2,000 index of smaller companies fell 0.3%.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

The dollar rose against other major currencies, sending prices for gold, oil and other commodities tumbling. Commodities are priced in dollars, so a stronger greenback makes them less appealing for foreign investors.

Oil dropped $2.33 to settle at $69.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, driving energy stocks lower.

The government bond market was mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.48% from 3.47% late Friday.

Trading reflected a shift out of risky assets before the Federal Reserve's two-day rate-setting meeting that begins today.

On Thursday, President Obama will host the Group of 20 nations' economic summit in Pittsburgh.

Analysts say investors are waiting for more clarity as the result of the meetings before they make more bets on the market.

The central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates near zero, but investors will be looking for any indication of when the Fed plans to actually raise rates, a tactic it would use to ward off inflation.

Until now, the Fed has insisted that inflation, which would further erode the value of the dollar and eat into Treasury yields, is largely in check.

In overseas markets Monday, key stock indexes fell 0.7% in Britain, 0.6% in Germany and 0.4% in France. A number of Asian markets, including Japan's, were closed for holidays.

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