Stocks Fail to Hold Gains

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

The markets ended in negative territory -- snapping a three-day winning streak -- as traders digested turmoil across the world, sinking oil prices and a slew of corporate news.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 22.7 points, or 0.19%, to 12,198, the S&P 500 slid 3.6 points, or 0.27%, to 1,310 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 12.4 points, or 0.45%, to 2,731. The FOX 50 traded lower by 2.4 points to 921.

Stocks swung into negative territory late in very quiet trading, shedding modest gains.

A combination of encouraging corporate earnings and upbeat economic data sent the markets considerably higher last week.  The blue chips soared 3.1%, the best weekly performance on a percentage basis since July 2010.

Transportation shares like United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) and AMR (NYSE:AMR), the owner of American Airlines, bucked the trend and gained on the day. Energy players such as BP (NYSE:BP) and Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU) lagged behind.

Online auction house eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) agreed to acquire GSI Commerce (NASDAQ:GSIC), an e-commerce marketing firm, for $2.4 billion in cash -- a 51% premium.

Also on the merger front, Sprint (NYSE:S) called on regulators to block AT&T's (NYSE:T) planned $39 billion acquisition of Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile that would create the biggest mobile operator in the U.S.

Several major economic reports are on tap for this week, which could potentially sway stocks.  Traders will pay particularly close attention to the Labor Department's report on the U.S. employment situation, slated for release Friday, which is seen as a major indicator of the strength of the economic recovery.

Personal spending climbed 0.7% in February, and personal income increased 0.3%, according to a report by the Commerce Department. However, much of the increase in spending was due to higher spending on food and energy that have jumped in the two months.  Indeed, real consumer spending, which excludes inflation, only edged higher by 0.3% in February, according to the report.

Consumer discretionary issues such as Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) could be affected by these data.

The number of contracts for existing homes jumped 2.1% in February, from January, according the the National Association of Realtors. Oftentimes, the effect pending home sales have on the markets is fairly muted since it lags behind two months.

Traders also kept a close eye on energy prices that have been particularly volatile in recent sessions due to tumult across the world. Combat operations that are now led by NATO and backed by the U.S. and several other countries continue in oil-producing Libya. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a speech on the military campaign on Libya Monday evening.

Violent clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters continued in Syria and Jordan over the weekend as well.

Light, sweet crude traded lower by $1.42, or 1.4%, to $103.98. The price of a gallon of regular gas at the pump nationwide was $3.58, up from $3.33 last month and $2.80 last year.

The potential for volatility spreading from small oil producers, like Libya, to larger ones such as Saudi Arabia has sent crude prices spiking 8.9% so far this month.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar traded higher by 0.03% against a basket of world currencies and the euro gained about 0.33% against the greenback.

Gold sunk $6.30, or 0.44%, to $1,421.

Corporate News

Berkshire Hathaway wrote down three of its holdings by nearly $1 billion after being pressured by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to letters by the released Monday.

Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), the world's largest oilfield servicing company, says tumult in the Middle East and North Africa will shave 8 to 10 cents a share off of its first-quarter earnings.

United Parcel Service (NSYE:UPS) and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) initiated faster service to and from Asian markets, as business in Asian countries has grown markedly.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is expected to defend itself in a U.S Supreme Court case Tuesday that will determine if a gender discrimination lawsuit levied against the company will gain class-action status. The suit alleges women received less pay and chances for advancement as did their male counterparts.  If the lawsuit makes class-action status it could become one of the largest discrimination cases in history, because of the number of possible plantiffs, analysts say.

Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) struck oil at one of its exploratory wells off the coast of Ghana.

Harry & David, the maker of gourmet gifts, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure its heavy debt-load.

Eastman Kodak (NYSE:EK) soared for a second day after a the International Trade Commission agreed to hear its patent-infringement case against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) that, if won, could provide millions in royalties for the company.

Foreign Markets

European markets traded in a tight range much of the day.  The English FTSE 100 was up 0.06% to 5,904, the French CAC 40 was up 0.12% to 3,977 and the German DAX lost 0.11% to 6,939.

Asian markets were mostly lower on renewed concern about radiation seeping from Japan's stricken nuclear reactors. The Japanese Nikkei 225 was lower by 0.6% to 9,478 and the Chinese Hang Seng was off 0.39% to 23,068.