Stocks bounced in and out of the plus column Monday, as the heavy selling from last week subsided. Wall Street didn't see the big, momentum-selling of previous sessions, but trading remained volatile, and investors are wary of another big downturn. No one's sure whether the wave of selling is over, or just taking a break.
The VIX, which measure volatility, rose to its highest level in more than three months.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gave up its modest gains in the final few minutes, losing another 41 points, and extending its losing streak to five days, and more than 600 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) fell 8, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) lost 44 points.
Among the blue chips, Caterpillar (CAT) rose 6 percent after posting better than expected results and forecasting that sales this year will stabilize after declining in 2013. It also revealed plans to buy back up to $10 billion of company stock.
Merck (MRK) gained 1 percent, moving to a 52-week high. JPMorgan raised its rating by two notches.
United Technologies (UTX) gained 2 percent. A defense industry newsletter said the company is considering the sale or spinoff its Sikorsky helicopter unit.
But some financials remain weak. Visa (V) and Goldman Sachs (GS) both lost 2 percent.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Some of the big name Nasdaq stocks fell. Cisco (CSCO) lost 1 percent on a JPMorgan downgrade. The analyst there says the company has a big emerging markets exposure. Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) all down about 2 percent. But Apple (AAPL) gained nearly 1 percent ahead of its earnings report.
Homebuilders were weak following a Barclay's downgrade. KBHome (KBH) lost 3 percent.
Elsewhere, Charter Communications (CHTR) jumped 4 percent on word that Comcast (CMCSA) is unlikely to make a solo bid for Time Warner Cable (TWC). That reduces the chances that Charter will need to fight a bidding war in its own quest to acquire its larger rival. Comcast gained nearly 1 percent, Time Warner was little changed, and Cablevision gained 4 percent.
Xerox (XRX) lost 5.5 percent on a pair of brokerage downgrades.
And the biotech firm Geron (GERN) slid 15 percent as 20 patients withdrew from a key clinical drug study.
What to Watch Tuesday:
The Commerce Department releases durable goods for December at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Standard & Poor's releases the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for November at 9 a.m.
The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for January at 10 a.m.
Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.
These major companies are due to report quarterly financial results:
American Airlines Group (AAL)
D.R. Horton (DHI)
Ford Motor (F)
T. Rowe Price (TROW)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.