Stocks Inch Up Amid Mergers

Stocks barely moved Monday and ended a touch higher as a wave of multibillion-dollar merger deals helped investor sentiment and oil prices retreated from a six-week high.

The Dow Jones industrial average (search) was up 6.06 points, or 0.06 percent, to end at 10,467.03, in light trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) rose 1.49 points, or 0.12 percent, to finish at 1,197.51. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) advanced 4.33 points, or 0.21 percent, to close at 2,075.76.

Deal news spanned several sectors of the economy. Washington Mutual Inc. (WM) said it planned to buy Providian Financial Corp. (PVN); oilfield service provider Weatherford International Ltd. (WFT) said it planned to buy two segments of Precision Drilling Corp. ; ProLogis (PLD) disclosed plans to acquire rival real estate investment trust Catellus Development Corp. (CDX), and E+Trade Financial Corp. (ET) reportedly raised its bid for rival Ameritrade Holding Corp. (AMTD).

"The mergers we have going put some focus on that select group -- but everything else is just trading sideways," said Robert Drust, managing director of listed trading at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.

Oil prices fell on Monday as traders took profits from a six-week peak reached in overnight electronic trading, though worries persisted about thin supplies of products like diesel and heating fuel.

U.S. light sweet crude for July delivery settled down 54 cents at $54.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (search), down from its overnight peak -- a six-week high of $55.55, the highest level since April 25 and less than $3 below the record.

"Oil coming off its highs has provided a little bit of a lift," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at New York brokerage Spencer Clarke.

The Dow got a lift from Boeing Co. (BA), up 1.4 percent at $65.55 after the U.S. defense and aerospace firm said it hopes to secure up to 20 percent of the British Royal Army's 6-billion-pound ($10.9 billion) modernization program.

The Nasdaq's gains came from eBay Inc. (EBAY), which rose 2.2 percent to $38.64 after Barron's, a financial weekly newspaper, said the Internet auction company is expanding briskly and that a wave of investor worries has made its stock a bargain.

Many on Wall Street were waiting for Thursday, when Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan (search) was scheduled to testify before Congress on the state of the economy. With investors worried that the economy could slow too quickly, harming corporate profits, Greenspan's testimony was seen as a possible boon to the market — and investors appeared willing to wait for it.

Shares of Exxon-Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest publicly traded oil company, were up 15 cents to $57.30.

Shares of Providian Financial (PVN) slid 1.8 percent, or 33 cents, to $17.63, on news of its proposed acquisition by Washington Mutual (WM), the largest U.S. savings and loan, fell 2.5 percent, or $1.03, to $40.54.

In the real estate sector, shares of ProLogis (PLD) slipped 3 percent, or $1.26, to $40.11 after it disclosed plans to acquire rival real estate investment trust Catellus Development Corp. (CDX) for $3.6 billion in cash and stock. Catellus jumped almost 13 percent, or $3.75, to $32.99.

Online brokerage E+Trade Financial Corp. (ET) rose 2 percent, or 25 cents, to $12.65 after a source said E+Trade raised its bid for rival Ameritrade Holding Corp.(AMTD) . Ameritrade's stock was up 0.2 percent, or 3 cents, at $14.93.

In the energy sector, oilfield services provider Weatherford International Ltd. (WFT) said it planned to buy two segments of Precision Drilling Corp. in a deal valued at $2.28 billion in cash and stock. Weatherford shares gained 2.1 percent, or $1.09, to $54, while Precision dropped $1.41 to $49.67 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) buoyed the Dow and the S&P 500, climbing almost 1 percent, or 38 cents, to $47.73 on the NYSE after the world's biggest retailer said it is quietly testing company-owned gasoline stations at a handful of its U.S. stores.

Among decliners, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) fell 1 percent, or 79 cents, to $75 after Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) said it will shift to using Intel Corp. (INTC) microprocessors in its Macintosh computers, severing its long relationship with IBM.

Intel was down 0.6 percent, or 16 cents, at $27.17, while Apple was down almost 1 percent, or 32 cents, at $37.92.

The bond market edged higher in late trading, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 3.96 percent from 3.98 percent late Friday. The dollar fell against most major indexes, while gold prices were higher.

Trading was light, with 1.17 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, below the 1.46 billion daily average for last year. About 1.52 billion shares traded on Nasdaq, below last year's 1.81 billion daily average.

The number of shares that rose exceeded the number that fell, with 1,968 stocks advancing and 1,323 declining on the NYSE. On Nasdaq, advancers outnumbered decliners by a ratio of about 8 to 7.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 2.63, or 0.42 percent, at 622.94.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.26 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.38 percent, France's CAC-40 lost 0.38 percent, and Germany's Xetra-DAX dropped 0.29 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.