Stocks close mixed Monday


NEW YORK -- Wall Street finished a volatile session mixed Monday as investors grappled with the possibility that the Federal Reserve might not lower interest rates as much as they hope.

The stock market racheted up and down throughout the day, with Wall Street still nervous after Friday's dismal employment report. The data, which showed the first monthly decline in jobs in four years, rekindled fears about housing and credit market weakness bleeding into the overall economy and squeezing consumer spending.

Speeches from Fed officials Monday seemed to give investors a bit more reason to be optimistic about the economy, but the officials avoided hinting at how the central bank might alter rates.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said that while market turmoil has the potential to hurt the economy, rate policy should not be used to shield investors from losses. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the economy appears to be "weathering the storm," and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said investors should consider Friday's unemployment report in the context of a mostly strong batch of retail sales reports.

For many investors, a rate cut after more than a year of the Fed standing pat on rates is practically a given. The debate, as they see it, is whether the Fed on Sept. 18 will reduce rates by a quarter percentage point or a half percentage point to loosen up the tight credit markets -- and also, if the central bank will continue to reduce rates as the year goes on.

There could be a major sell-off if the Fed doesn't reduce rates next week, said Scott Fullman, director of investment strategy for I. A. Englander & Co. And until then, movements will likely to be choppy, and exaggerated by low trading volumes. "It's very volatile here, but we're not seeing a tremendous amount of volume. People are on the sidelines. I think people want to be convinced of what's happening before they get back in."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.47, or 0.11%, to 13,127.85, after falling 250 points on Friday and switching directions several times throughout the session Monday.

Broader stock indexes fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 1.85, or 0.13%, to 1,451.70, and the Nasdaq composite index declined 6.59, or 0.26%, to 2,559.11.

Bond prices rose as stocks slipped, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note down to 4.34% from 4.37% late Friday.