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Stocks erase gains as finance chiefs meet

Stock prices were little changed on Monday in quiet Veterans Day trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.31 point to 12,815.08. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.62 point to 2,904.26, and the S&P 500 Stock Index eked out a gain of 0.18 point to 1,380.03

Investors will now await the return of Congress after the election recess to begin discussions about dealing with the expiring tax cuts, often referred to as the "fiscal cliff." Reports on inflation and retail sales are also due this week.

Gold followed the stock market, unchanged at $1,730.90 an ounce, and oil fell 50 cents to $85.57 a barrel.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) slumped 0.8 percent after dropping for seven straight weeks.

“The last month has been very weak for the market,” said Robert Stimpson, a money manager at Akron, Ohio-based Oak Associates Ltd., which oversees about $850 million. “The political concerns in Europe and the U.S. add volatility on a daily basis.”

Fewer than 292 million shares of New York Stock Exchange-listed companies changed hands on the NYSE, the least in Bloomberg data going back to 2003, as the Big Board canceled trading and closing auctions in 216 securities after an outage in a computer that matches orders and processes transactions.

“What people don’t like in markets is uncertainty,” said Gilles Sitbon, who helps oversee $1.9 billion at Sycomore Asset Management in Paris. “People are waiting for one thing that could make the market go down. People are ready to pull the trigger. And if nothing happens, then you can get a grind higher. It’s confidence building.”

Euro-area finance ministers met in Brussels on Monday. While the ministers will probably not approve 31.5 billion euros ($40 billion) of financial aid to Greece, they will agree to prevent the country from defaulting on 5 billion euros of bills that mature on Nov. 16, a European official said Friday.

The so-called troika that oversees euro-area Greece’s bailouts said it sees “very large risks” to the Greek program, according to a draft report obtained by Bloomberg News. The troika comprises the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Phone and health care stocks rose the most among 10 groups in the S&P 500 on Monday, while utilities and technology companies had the biggest declines. United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) increased 1.5 percent to $76.95. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) advanced 1 percent to $33.87.

Jefferies Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF) gained 14 percent to $16.27. Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE: LUK), the largest shareholder of Jefferies with a 29 percent stake, agreed to buy the portion of the investment bank it doesn’t already own for about $2.8 billion. Investors will receive 0.81 Leucadia share for each Jefferies share they own, the companies said Monday in a statement, valuing the entire company at $3.59 billion. New York-based Leucadia fell 3 percent to $21.14.

Titanium Metals Corp. (NYSE: TIE) surged 43 percent to $16.50. Precision Castparts Corp. (NYSE: PCP), the maker of metal forgings for jet engines, agreed to buy Texas billionaire Harold Simmons’ Titanium Metals for $2.9 billion in its largest acquisition in almost two decades. Titanium Metals’ stockholders will get $16.50 a share, 44 percent more than the Dallas-based company’s closing price on Thursday, according to a statement after markets closed on Friday. Precision Castparts added 4.9 percent to $179.69.

Sherwin-Williams Co. (NYSE: SHW) climbed 5.8 percent, the biggest gain since September 2011, to $149.06. The largest U.S. paint retailer agreed to acquire closely held Consorcio Comex SA de CV for about $2.34 billion, including debt, to gain Mexico’s largest paint maker as housing demand improves.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) rose 14 percent to $73.93 after a combination of its experimental hepatitis C therapies cleared the virus in 100 percent of patients in a trial. Gilead, the world’s largest maker of HIV medicines, is among several drugmakers racing to develop new hepatitis C treatments that act faster with fewer side effects than the current standard of care.

All 11 members in the Supercomposite Homebuilding Index dropped, with D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) losing 5.8 percent to $19.40. The largest U.S. homebuilder by volume fell after CEO Donald Tomnitz cautioned during a conference call that employment growth will remain weak next year, potentially hurting sales of new houses.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Related Links:

New York Stock Exchange: nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: nasdaq.com

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