U.S. stocks kicked off May with slim losses, as the energy sector followed the price of oil lower and investors couldn't sustain a morning rally that followed the death of Osama bin Laden. The Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a four day winning streak, closing down 3.18 points, or 0.02%, at 12807.36. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index also snapped a four day streak, losing 2.39 points, or 0.18%, to close at 1361.22. The technology heavy Nasdaq Composite ended an eight-day winning streak, dropping 9.46, or 0.33%, to finish at 2864.08.
The market has tended to rise on the first trading session of the month as new investors dive into stocks, but Monday's action follows the best month of the year so far for stocks. Stocks retreated midsession after European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio said restructuring Greek debt isn't an option, renewing doubts over the euro zone's ability to manage its trouble spots. Traders said the normal inflow of new money into the stock market on the month's first trading session largely dried up as Constancio spoke.
Sunday night, U.S. stock futures had jumped on word that bin Laden had been killed in a military operation, but the rally was short-lived. Among blue chips, Chevron dropped $1.26, or 1.2%, to 108.18, and Exxon Mobil lost 1.01, or 1.2%, to 86.97, following oil lower. Alcoa added 22 cents, or 1.3%, to 17.22, after Goldman Sachs analysts raised their investment recommendation on the shares. American Express gained 57 cents, or 1.2%, to 49.65, as the company affirmed a share repurchase plan during its annual shareholder meeting. Deal-making pushed health care stocks higher. Cephalon was one of the S&P 500's strongest components as it gained 3.09, or 4%, to $80.11, after Teva Pharmaceutical agreed to buy the company for $6.8 billion. Teva's American depositary shares climbed 1.54, or 3.4%, to 47.27.
European bourses edged higher Monday as investors cheered news that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a military operation in Pakistan, and as several deals were announced. The Europe Stoxx 600 index closed up 0.1% at 283.93, supported by the automotive, mining and chemicals sectors. President Barack Obama late Sunday announced the death of bin Laden in a U.S. operation in Pakistan. Germany's DAX 30 climbed 0.2% to 7,527.64, led by gains for Commerzbank AG, up 3.2% after earnings, and for chemicals company K+S AG, up 2.7% after lifting its 2011 guidance.
Equities also rose in Paris, albeit more modestly than Frankfurt, while U.K. markets were closed for a bank holiday. France's CAC 40 gained 0.1% to 4,108.77, led by a 1.8% increase for Alcatel-Lucent SA. Shares of PSA Peugeot-Citroen gained 0.6%, while Renault SA added 0.1%. Among the top movers Monday was food-ingredients company Danisco A/S, which added 4.3% after U.S. chemicals group DuPont late Friday raised its offer for the firm. In other deal news, Grifols SA surged 5.3% after the Spanish maker of blood plasma products said its purchase of Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings has won tentative U.S. antitrust approval.
Asian markets ended mixed Monday, with news of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death in a U.S. attack boosting sentiment, helping Japanese and South Korean stocks to extend gains. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average climbed 1.6% to 10,004.20, reclaiming the 10,000-point level for the first time since March 14, while South Korea's Kospi added 1.7% to 2228.96. Markets in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam were shut for a public holiday.
Trade was thin in Japan with many investors away for the Golden Week holidays. Tokyo markets will be shut from Tuesday and will reopen Friday. The yen weakened on news of bin Laden's death, spurring shares of exporters. Canon Inc. and Sony Corp. each climbed 2.5%, while Advantest Corp. and Komatsu Ltd. added 3.0% each. Panasonic Corp. climbed 2.8% after announcing cost-cutting plans. In Seoul, construction plays were helped by a government plan unveiled Sunday to restructure financially stricken local builders. Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. rose 1.1% and Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. climbed 2.2%.
Crude futures settled lower Monday after the death of Osama bin Laden roiled oil markets, as traders tried to gauge the event's effect on stability in the Middle East. Light, sweet crude for June delivery settled 41 cents, or 0.4%, lower at $113.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, in a roller-coaster session that saw both two and a half year highs near $115 a barrel and a decline to $110.82 a barrel. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange ended 77 cents lower at $125.12 a barrel.
Gold futures eked out a record high, while silver pared earlier losses as traders refocused on lingering concerns about the weaker dollar and U.S. monetary policy. Gold for May delivery, the front-month contract, settled up 70 cents at a record $1,556.70 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract touched a new intraday record of $1,576.60 a troy ounce. The most actively traded gold contract, for June delivery, settled at a record $1,557.10 a troy ounce, up 70 cents. It also set an intraday record, at $1,575.80.