Wall Street started the week with a narrowly mixed performance Monday, with many investors moving to the sidelines as they wait for quarterly...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street started the week with a narrowly mixed performance Monday, with many investors moving to the sidelines as they wait for quarterly profit reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.01 to 12,612.43, after rising more than 120 points earlier in the day and finishing last week up 393.02, or 3.22 percent. Dow component Microsoft closed Monday unchanged at $29.16; Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 67 cents to $74.98.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The S&P 500 index closed up 2.14 at 1,372.54, after rising as high as 1,386.74. The Nasdaq composite index fell 6.15 to 2,364.83.

Stocks had popped higher in earlier trading, extending last week’s big advance on talk of a $5 billion private-equity investment in Seattle-based Washington Mutual. The nation’s largest thrift is reportedly in discussions with buyout shop TPG and other investors about selling a stake in itself in return for cash.

But with earnings on tap and the Federal Reserve issuing minutes from its March meeting today, investors, while clearly feeling more confident, decided to play it a little safer late in the day, especially with Alcoa announcing its first-quarter results after the close.

Alcoa was the biggest loser among the 30 Dow Jones industrials, falling $1.56, or 4 percent, to $37.44 ahead of its earnings release. The aluminum company said it had a 54 percent drop in first-quarter net income, a sharper decline than the market expected. Its shares were little changed in after-hours trading.

“Overall, I’m getting the sense here that the Street is starting to focus on fundamentals and the timing of a potential recovery in the economy, and trying to move past the credit crisis,” said Craig Peckham, market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

That’s not to say the market volatility seen over the past several months has subsided for good. As earnings pour in over the next few weeks, it’s possible investors could grow anxious again.

But there were many signs during the day that Wall Street was feeling more optimistic.

After news that Washington Mutual might sell a stake for cash — a move that other banks such as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have made — WaMu shares shot up $2.98, or 29.3 percent, to $13.15.