NEW YORK Stocks closed mixed Monday, with Wall Street exhausted from last week's swoon and still nervous about losses at banks and elevated energy costs.
A pullback in crude oil prices provided only limited relief to investors, who largely stuck to the stocks of large companies. Blue chips are are regarded as safer assets during times of economic uncertainty.
"It's hard for anyone to jump in whole hog after Friday," said Thomas J. Lee, equities analyst at JPMorgan. Soaring energy prices, as well as a huge jump in the unemployment rate, sent the Dow Jones industrial average plunging nearly 400 points on Friday.
"I think everyone's going to watch oil, and I think it's going to paralyze us for a while," Lee said.
Crude prices dipped about $4 below $135 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday, but only after Friday's $11-a-barrel surge to a new record. With U.S. gasoline topping $4 a gallon, consumers' ballooning energy bills could force them to keep paring back spending on other items.
The financial sector was particularly weak Monday, after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. posted an unexpectedly large quarterly loss of $2.8 billion the investment bank's first since it spun off from American Express Co. in 1994. The poor performance added to uncertainty about how long it will take the ailing financial sector to recover from the mortgage market's near collapse.
"The financials are a key factor in today's market. It almost seems we're stuck in this range, trying to figure out when the end of this whole financial crisis is over," said Anthony Conroy, managing director and head trader for BNY ConvergEx Group.
The Dow rose 70.51, or 0.58 percent, to 12,280.32 after Friday's rout, which was the worst tumble on Wall Street in 15 months. During trading Monday, the blue chip index rose more than 100 points, fell briefly into negative territory, and then rebounded again.
Broader stock indicators finished mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.08, or 0.08 percent, to 1,361.76, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 15.10, or 0.61 percent, to 2,459.46.
Choppiness in the markets was aggravated by low trading volumes.Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume amounted to a light 1.35 billion shares.