NEW YORK – The Dow average and the Standard & Poor's 500 rose slightly on Monday as Ford Motor Co.'s (F) stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings and lower oil prices lured some investors back to the market after its precipitous slide to nearly three-year lows on Friday.
But the Nasdaq fell, with many investors still edgy about the outlook for U.S. corporate earnings growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 28 points, or 0.26 percent, at 10,694.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.56 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,264.05. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index was down 2.89 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,244.8.
Ford shares rose 6 percent to $8.37 on the New York Stock Exchange, and ranked as the second-biggest positive influence on the S&P 500. The No. 2 U.S. auto maker's profit increase was tied to strength in its finance arm and the sale of its rental car unit Hertz Corp., even as its core automotive division lost money.
Ford also said it will cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in North America by 2012, with plans to idle 14 manufacturing facilities as it works to regain lost ground due to competition from Asian car makers.
"People are real skittish after the sell-off on Friday. That was a pretty nasty bump," said Jon Brorson, managing director of growth equities at Neuberger Berman.
Any big moves higher "are going to be dependent upon the earnings this week, as we get a chunk of them," he added.
Lower oil prices improved sentiment, with U.S. light crude for March delivery down 38 cents at $68.10 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
But a weaker-than-expected reading in a U.S. gauge meant to predict economic activity in six to nine months' time helped limit the gains in the Dow and the S&P 500.
On Friday, Wall Street suffered its biggest loss in nearly three years, with the Dow average closing down 2 percent and Nasdaq ending 2.4 percent lower. The sell-off was spurred by investors' worries about a slowdown in U.S. corporate earnings and a surge in oil prices due to geopolitical tensions.
In Monday's session, the biggest drag on the Nasdaq was eBay Inc. (EBAY), the Internet auctioneer, down 2.3 percent at $43.94. Last Wednesday, the company disappointed Wall Street by failing to raise its 2006 outlook.
But a gain in Google Inc. (GOOG) shares helped limit the Nasdaq's decline after Stanford Financial raised its rating on Google to "buy" from "hold." Google's stock rose 3.9 percent to $414.97, recovering from a sharp sell-off on Friday.
Companies yet to report earnings on Monday include American Express Co. (AXP), a Dow component, up 1.3 percent at $52.06, and Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), down 0.9 percent at $31.39. American Express is scheduled to report during the session, while Texas Instruments will release earnings after the bell.
Before the bell, Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the No. 2 U.S. bank, posted a surprising drop in its quarterly earnings. . Its stock slipped 0.4 percent to $44.03.
Also lending support to the broader market was a burst of deal news. A group including grocery store operator Supervalu Inc. (SVU) and drug store chain CVS Corp. (CVS) said it would buy rival retailer Albertsons Inc. (ABS) in a cash-and-stock transaction. Albertson's shares rose 4.6 percent to $25.21 on the NYSE.
In other deal news, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL), meanwhile, said it agreed to buy back its Polo jeans business from Jones Apparel Group Inc. (JNY). Polo Ralph Lauren shares advanced 1.9 percent to $53.98.
Sporting goods retailer Sports Authority Inc. (TSA.N) also said it had agreed to be bought by a private equity affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners LP for around $1.3 billion, including debt. Sports Authority shares jumped 20 percent to $37.25 on the NYSE.
On the economic agenda, the Conference Board's report on December U.S. leading economic indicators showed a rise of 0.1 percent — half the gain forecast by economists polled by Reuters. In November the index gained 0.5 percent.