U.S. stocks gave up modest gains to turn lower in the final minutes of Monday's trading session, as financials and materials sectors joined consumer and tech stocks in the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 5.6 points, or 0.1%, at 12,214. The S&P 500 was down 2 points at 1,312. The Nasdaq Composite lost 9.7 points to trade at 2,733. Among economic data released Monday, personal consumer spending increased 0.7% last month. Some 528 million shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Composite volume neared 2.6 billion.
European stock markets finished slightly higher Monday, as telecommunications equipment firms Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Corp. rallied after Goldman Sachs recommended buying the shares. The Stoxx Europe 600 index gained 0.1% to end at 276.24. The index rose 3.1% last week. Shares of Alcatel-Lucent soared nearly 8% Monday after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the French firm to buy from neutral. The broker also upgraded mobile-phone giant Nokia to buy from neutral. Its shares rose 3.6% in Helsinki. Alternative energy companies also rallied after Germany's Green Party made strong gains in a state election Sunday a good result for renewable energy stocks but bad for nuclear, according to Jefferies International. Shares of Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems rose nearly 5% and Spain's Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA climbed 5.6%. Areva SA, the French nuclear-reactor maker, dropped 1.5%. In Germany, shares of luxury-car maker Porsche Automobil Holding SE rallied 6.7% to end at EUR60, reversing earlier sharp losses that had seen the shares drop to an intraday low of EUR53.55. Other auto stocks traded lower, with BMW AG falling 0.2% and Daimler AG dropping 1.5%. That helped pull the German DAX 30 index down 0.1% to 6,938.63. Alcatel-Lucent ranked as the strongest performer in the CAC 40 index, which rose 0.1% to 3,976.95. In London, shares of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca PLC finished nearly unchanged after the company lifted its earnings outlook for the year, citing a tax deal between U.K. and U.S. authorities. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index edged up 0.1% to 5,904.49.
Japanese shares fell Monday as high levels of radioactivity hindered work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, while Hong Kong and Taiwanese stocks lost ground after some earnings reports fell short of estimates. Chinese and Indian stocks advanced, driven by hopes for strong corporate earnings. But the nuclear developments in Japan, political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and the loss by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party in Sunday's regional elections kept investors cautious. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.6% to end at 9478.53 as repair crews at the troubled nuclear power facility struggled to make headway amid news that radioactivity levels in a pool of water inside one of the buildings had reached 100,000 times the normal level. Shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co. owner of the stricken nuclear plant, tumbled another 17.7% to bring its losses so far in March to more than 67%. Japan Tobacco Inc. lost 0.6% after the company said Friday it will halt shipments from March 30 to April 10, due to difficulties procuring materials following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Several exporters also declined, finding little support despite a weakened yen, with Advantest Corp. sinking 4.9% and Sony Corp. falling 1.3%. But some car makers rose, with Nissan Motor Co. gaining 3.5% as it restarted production. Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gave up 0.4% to 23068.19 and Taiwan's Taiex shed 0.7% to 8553.06. Singapore's Straits Times index dropped 0.4% to 3057.38, Thailand's SET slipped 0.5% to 1032.94 and Indonesia's share benchmark gave up 0.1% to 3602.86. Going the other way, China's Shanghai Composite index rose 0.2% to 2984.01 and South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1% to 2056.39. The Philippines' main share index rose 1% to 3913.98, while India's Sensex rose 0.7% to 18943.14. Hong Kong stocks were pressured by shares of China Construction Bank Corp. and refining giant China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., which lost 2.3% and 2%, respectively, after both reported 2010 earnings that missed some analyst expectations. Chinese banks helped Shanghai shares move higher on expectations for strong earnings from the five major banks due to release their annual reports this week. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. rose 0.7% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. gained 0.9%.
Copper recorded a third straight day of losses Monday as base metals closed lower on the London Metal Exchange, weighed down amid broadly weaker investor sentiment. The LME's three month copper contract closed the PM kerb at $9,530 a metric ton, down 1.6% on Friday's kerb close. The red metal is now down 2.6% from last week's high of $9,784/ton, recorded Thursday. Oil futures sank Monday as rebels made gains in Libya, raising hopes that the country could resume oil shipments in the near future. Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled down $1.42, or 1.4%, at $103.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled down 79 cents, or 0.7%, at $114.80 a barrel. Gold futures locked in their third consecutive decline after stronger than expected U.S. consumer spending data set a negative tone for traders. The most actively traded contract, for April delivery, settled down 0.4%, or $6.30, at $1,419.90 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The thinly traded March-delivery contract was down 0.4%, or $6.30, at $1,419.80 a troy ounce. Tuesday will be the contract's last trading day.