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The Dow closed slightly lower as traders mulled mixed first-quarter earnings reports, mergers and acquisitions activity and stronger-than-expected new home sales.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26 points, or 0.21%, to 12,480, the S&P 500 slipped 2.1 points, or 0.16%, to 1,335 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 5.7 points, or 0.2%, to 2,826. The FOX 50 was up 0.21 point to 936.

Companies that make long-lasting equipment like Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Honeywell (NYSE:HON) posted declines on the day.  Transportation issues such as Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) bucked the trend and advanced.

Mergers and acquisitions activity has heated up in recent months after slowing down during the financial crisis.  Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) unveiled a deal to acquire Australian Equinox for $7.7 billion.

Strong first-quarter corporate results had been driving the markets higher, however, disappointing reports but a damper on the gains Monday.

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB) posted a sharper-than-expected 8.9% decrease in first-quarter earnings.  The maker of Kleenex tissues earned $1.09 a share, excluding one-time charges, missing calls for $1.17 a share.

RadioShack's (NYSE:RSH) first-profits slipped 30% to 35 cents a share, excluding charges, which were inline with consensus expectations.  The technology retailer also cut its full-year outlook 10 cents, now projecting earnings of between $1.60 and $1.80 a share.

The tug-of-war over NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) continues for another week. The parent of the NYSE has continually rebuffed the hostile rival bid by Nasdaq OMX Group (NASDAQ:NDAQ) and IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE:ICE), which, according to the two companies, is worth considerably more than the initial deal offered by Deutsche Boerse.

NYSE has cited a slew of items including considerable regulatory hurdles in its rejection of the offer.  However, Nasdaq and ICE fired back Monday morning, reiterating that they believe their deal is "superior."

Sales of new homes jumped 11% to a better-than-expected annualized rate of 300,000 in March after tumbling 17% in the prior month. Economists expected a reading of 280,000 for the month. However, the median price slipped to $213,800 from $224,800.

"We expect trends in housing activity to improve gradually as the economic backdrop firms," wrote Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays Capital, in a research note.  However "we see the high level of foreclosures as continuing to exert downward pressure on home prices in the coming quarters."

Also on the corporate front, regulators suspect a manufacturing lapse at a Boeing (NYSE:BA) plant from 15 years ago may have been to blame for the tear in the fuselage that caused an emergency landing of a Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) flight earlier this month, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Crude prices were volatile Monday after jumping 1.9% last week as traders digested a deluge of news from the Middle East.

In Yemen, thousands of people protested demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh quit immediately, after already agreeing to transfer power over the weekend. However, security forces fired on demonstrators Monday, injuring at least 10 people, according to a report by Reuters, citing witnesses.

The situation in Syria continues to escalate as well, with pro-government troops killing at least 130 since the violent clashes started there, according to reports by human rights groups.

Light, sweet crude finished the day down by a cent to $112.28 a barrel and are up 23% so far for the year. Gasoline prices at the consumer level are 25 cents off record highs recorded in July 2008.  A gallon of regular gas at the pump cost $3.86 on average nationwide, up from $3.57 last month and $2.85 last year.

Weakness in the U.S. dollar has put upward pressure on oil prices in recent sessions.  The greenback recently edged lower by 0.12% against a basket of world currencies and the euro gained 0.14% against the dollar.

Gold was up $5.40, or 0.36%, to $1,509 a troy ounce, closing an yet another record high. The metal is still 36% off of its inflation-adjusted high hit in 1980.

Corporate News

Ford (NYSE:F) is idling plants in Taiwan, China and South America amid part shortages caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.

Merck's (NYSE:MRK) hepatitis drug, Boceprevir, was successful in eliminating the virus in 75% of patients, but concerns over anemia and psychiatric side effects loom, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is raising prices on Pampers, Bounty and Charmin products by 3% to 7% on average.

Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) is acquiring IntoNow, which helps consumers find out what their friends are watching on TV, for an undisclosed sum.

Travelzoo (NASDAQ:TZOO) was upgraded to "buy" from "hold" and had its price target boosted to $123 from $66 by Benchmark.

HSBC (NYSE:HBC) is shuttering its Russian retail operation, focusing its attention on corporate lending in the region.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is testing out a new home delivery service called "Walmart to Go" in San Jose, CA, which lets consumers purchase groceries and have them delivered for a $5 fee.

Nintendo said in a regulatory statement that it plans on releasing a new home console, replacing the Wii, in 2012.  The company plans on providing further details at the E3 Expo in June.

Foreign Markets

European markets were closed Friday and Monday due to a market holiday.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged lower by 0.11% to 9,672 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 1% to 24,138.