- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NEW YORK | Investors fear that they may have bet too soon on an economic comeback.

Stocks ended mostly lower Monday as drops in prices for oil and other commodities spurred worries that demand for basic materials may remain slack. Indexes ended mixed but off of their lows for the day.

The drop in oil to a five-week low pushed energy and commodity stocks lower and sent investors into safe-haven parts of the market, such as consumer-goods producers. Occidental Petroleum slid 2.5 percent while Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide and Crest, rose 2 percent.

The back-and-forth trading Monday followed conflicting signs about the economy. Oil skidded on fears of weak demand, while a trade group’s report found that activity in the services industry rose in June to its best level in nine months.

Investors have become more cautious in recent weeks after a strong rally that began in March. Some traders fear that they might have been too optimistic about how soon the economy might recover from a recession that began in December 2007.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44.13, or 0.5 percent, to 8,324.87, and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 2.30, or 0.3 percent, to 898.72. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 9.12, or 0.5 percent, to 1,787.40.

Oil fell $2.68 to settle at $64.05 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Last week, oil hit an eight-month high above $73.

The drop in oil hit energy and commodity stocks. Exxon Mobil Corp. fell 39 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $68.10, and Occidental fell $1.58, or 2.5 percent, to $61.70.

Alcoa fell 60 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $9.26, while Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. fell $3.78, or 7.6 percent, to $45.94.

Among consumer-staples companies, P&G; rose $1.06, or 2.1 percent, to $52.17. General Mills Inc., the maker of Cheerios and Yoplait yogurt, advanced $1.90, or 3.3 percent, to $60.40.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 3.18, or 0.6 percent, to 494.03.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was flat at 3.50 percent, and the yield on the three-month T-bill rose to 0.16 percent from 0.15 percent late Thursday.

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