NEW YORK — Stocks fluctuated but showed some signs of stability today as Wall Street, still anxious that a credit crunch will crimp U.S. growth, struggled to recoup some of last week’s steep losses.
Some strong earnings reports and merger-and-acquisition activity appeared to steady the market, which is coming off the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s biggest weekly drops in five years. The Dow has fallen about 5 percent since closing at a record of 14,000.41 on July 19, caving under worries about a shakier lending climate.
Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat producer, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit gain, while HSBC Holdings PLC, Europe’s largest bank by market value, said earnings for the first half of the year rose 25 percent.
Also, in a sign that deal-making hasn’t been stanched by debt aversion, industrial equipment manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand said it is selling its Bobcat earth-moving division and two other units to Korea’s Doosan Infracore for $4.9 billion.
Not all of this morning’s news was positive: China again tightened its credit by ordering banks to increase their reserves, and RadioShack Corp. said second-quarter sales fell 15 percent compared with a year ago suggesting that consumers’ discretionary spending is waning.
The market wavered between positive and negative territory, indicating that a high level of nervousness remains on Wall Street, said Kim Caughey, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group. “The mythical investor vacillates between fear and greed,” she said, noting that she regards last week’s plunge as an opportunity to buy, albeit selectively.
By midday, the Dow fell two points, or 0.02 percent, to 13,263. On Thursday and Friday, the Dow fell a total of 585 points.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.28, or 0.02 percent, to 1,459, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell four points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,558.
Bonds fell modestly, and the 10-year Treasury note’s yield edged up to 4.78 percent from 4.77 percent late Friday. A week ago, the 10-year note’s yield was at 4.95 percent, but it has since sunk as investors have sought safe assets during the stock market’s plunge.
In other corporate news, Dow component Verizon Communications Inc. posted a rise in second-quarter profit that met expectations and said Verizon Wireless, its joint venture with Vodafone Group PLC, will buy Rural Cellular Corp. in a deal worth about $757 million.
High energy prices, which contribute to inflation, remain a concern for investors. Oil futures fell 57 cents to $76.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, they finished a penny away from the record close of $77.03 reached July 14, 2006.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices rose.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies which is in negative territory for the year fell five points, or 0.61 percent, to 773.