- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks barely budged yesterday, ending narrowly mixed after yields on the 30-year Treasury note briefly reached 5 percent and investors grew skittish a day ahead of the Federal Reserve’s first meeting of the year.

After a volatile week in which stocks lost ground, merger and acquisition news gave a boost to stocks for much of the session before the 30-year yield moved higher. Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to acquire wealth manager First Republic Bank for $1.8 billion in cash and stock and Citigroup Inc. struck an agreement to buy British insurer Prudential PLC’s Egg Banking PLC online bank for $1.13 billion.

Many on Wall Street were girding for a busy week of economic and earnings news as they tried to determine whether an indecisive market can resume its advance from the second half of 2006. A two-day Fed meeting begins today, after which investors will receive the central bank’s latest read on the economy and interest rates, and a torrent of fourth-quarter earnings reports is expected. The Fed has left short-term interest rates unchanged at its past four meetings.

“The market really can’t find any direction,” said Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at Cowen & Co., describing recent sessions as “rudderless” ahead of the Fed meeting. He said investors appeared unnerved after the yields on the 30-year Treasury note moved higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.76, or 0.03 percent, at 12,490.78.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 1.56, or 0.11 percent, at 1,420.62, and the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.60, or 0.23 percent, at 2,441.09.

Yields on the 30-year Treasury note reached 5 percent and then slipped back as investors wrestled with questions over the direction of interest rates. The Fed sets short-term interest rates — the rates banks charge each other for overnight loans — but the central bank’s pronouncements can affect all interest rates.

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