Stocks barely budged Monday, finishing mixed as interest-rate worries and a legal setback for Merck countered momentum from a possible multibillion-dollar...

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NEW YORK — Stocks barely budged Monday, finishing mixed as interest-rate worries and a legal setback for Merck countered momentum from a possible multibillion-dollar acquisition by ConocoPhillips.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 10.81 to close at 10,767.77.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 26 cents to close at $27.45 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, vaulted 54 cents to $70.19, surpassing a five-year high set last Thursday.

Broader stock indicators gained ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.06 to 1,260.43, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 4.22 to 2,260.95.

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Forecasts for midweek snowstorms in the Northeast catapulted energy prices on anticipation for increased demand, although OPEC said it will keep producing oil at current record levels before considering whether to scale back next year. A barrel of light crude surged $1.91 to settle at $61.30 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

There was little economic news to guide the market Monday, but data on monthly retail sales, price inflation and manufacturing are scheduled for later this week.

Instead, Wall Street awaited the Federal Reserve’s decision today on interest rates. While the Fed is expected to lift rates by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.25 percent, traders are hoping for indications the rate increases will end soon. Recent economic strength has fed worries that the central bank might extend the series of increases.

“People are waiting to see what kind of change in policy language is going to accompany that statement,” said Russ Koesterich, senior portfolio manager at Barclays Global Investments. “The question is, if the Fed is approaching (a neutral stance), how will its policy change in 2006?”

Koesterich said he believes the Fed is near the end of its rate tightening, which should help stocks.

But if there’s “evidence of an increase in core inflation, it’s reasonable to assume that the Fed is going to continue hiking rates,” he added.

The Energy Department on Monday said crude oil is projected to remain well above $50 a barrel over the next 20 to 25 years because it does not expect OPEC to pump as much oil as previously planned.

The report, however, also forecast a sharp price decline for natural gas, which added 52.9 cents to settle at $14.841 per 1,000 cubic feet on the Nymex.

Rising gasoline and heating-fuel prices again clouded the outlook for the key holiday shopping season, which Koesterich said remains a foremost concern on Wall Street.

Wal-Mart quelled some fears when it said its December same-store sales are in line with estimates, sending shares up 60 cents to $48.68.

ConocoPhillips is nearing a deal to acquire oil and gas producer Burlington Resources for more than $30 billion, The Wall Street Journal said Monday. Together, the companies’ annual revenue would be more than $211 billion. ConocoPhillips fell $1.82 to $61.25, while Burlington surged $6.41 to $82.50.