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Jan. 29, 2007, 11:38 p.m. EST

U.S. stocks end mixed amid caution ahead of Fed

New chip-making technologies lift Intel, IBM, offsetting jitters over Fed

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By Nick Godt, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks finished mixed on Monday, after investors behaved cautiously in the face of sliding crude oil prices, a flurry of merger developments, and technology innovations from chip-making companies Intel Corp. and IBM.

Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services, characterized the day's session as "choppy."

"This is a heavy week with lots of earnings, economic data, and the Federal Reserve meeting. Any of these can move the market, so we'll remain choppy until investors can get a grip on the overall picture."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.13% closed up 3.76 points at 12,490.78, after earlier trading as high as 12,542.

/zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC 47.45, +0.40, +0.85%
INTC

Technology stocks provided support for the blue-chip average after both Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +0.85% and IBM /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +0.12% announced over the weekend that they are developing new materials to build smaller and faster chips. See full story. Intel was up 1.4%, leading gains on the Dow, while IBM rose 1.1%.

Hewlett-Packard Co. /zigman2/quotes/203461582/composite HPQ +0.09% gained 1.7%, after solid results from Canon Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210242912/composite CAJ -1.38% led UBS to forecast similar gains for HP's printing unit.

Also fueling interest in techs was the expected launch of Vista, Microsoft Corp.'s /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.64% new operating system, slated for release on Tuesday.

Verizon Communications /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ +0.28% , another Dow component, rose slightly, overcoming early weakness, after it reported earnings that fell from year-earlier levels, while earnings excluding special items topped expectations.

Casting a shadow on telecoms, Deutsche Telekom /zigman2/quotes/213490072/composite DT +0.39% cut its profit forecast for 2007, blaming fierce competition and recent weakness in the dollar. Citigroup also downgraded its rating on the company to sell from hold.

The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.24% erased earlier gains to close down 1.56 points at 1,420.62. A 2.5% slide in crude oil prices weighed on the energy sector and stocks such as Occidental Petroleum Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207018272/composite OXY -0.96% and Marathon Oil Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205031829/composite MRO -1.24% .

And the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.92% rose 5.60 points to 2,441.09, after earlier trading as high as 2,451.

In spite of the interest in the Dow's chip-makers, semiconductor stocks on the Nasdaq fell back, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208144392/composite AMD +0.55% and Texas Instruments Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202237907/composite TXN +0.88% .

Still, a barrel fell $1.41, or 2.6%, to close at $54.01 on Monday, helping sustain some enthusiasm for techs. See Futures Movers.

By sector, computer technology /zigman2/quotes/210598343/realtime IXCO +0.98% and technology hardware were leading the gains, while metals miners /zigman2/quotes/210598348/realtime XAU +0.57% , banks and telecoms fell.

Gold stocks, such as Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold /zigman2/quotes/200215692/composite FCX -0.08% , fell as the dollar advanced and as the price of gold reversed early gains and fell $1.50 to close at $643.20 an ounce. See Metals Stocks. The dollar rose ahead of the Fed meeting and after news of sluggish consumer spending in Japan. See Currencies.

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