Stocks Slip After Bus. Investments Slip

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are lower again Tuesday morning after the Commerce Department said a measurement of business investment fell in February. Banks and energy companies are taking some of the biggest losses. Stocks fell the previous day after weak car sales raised some worries about spending on other types of purchases.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index skidded 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,352 as of 10:15 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 27 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,623. The Nasdaq composite fell 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,884. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks slipped less than 1 point to 1,368.

SLOW START: The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories continued to grow in February, but a measurement of business investment spending decreased for the first time since September.

Energy companies traded lower. National Oilwell Varco lost 54 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $39.14 and Exxon Mobil gave up 62 cents to $81.44. Banks also lagged the market, as Bank of America fell 34 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $23.25 and KeyCorp declined 20 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $17.53.

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QVC IS BUYING: Alaskan telecommunications company General Communications agreed to be bought by online commerce holding company Liberty Interactive for $32.50 per share, or about $1.1 billion. Liberty said it will combine General Communications with some of its other businesses, including Liberty Broadband, Charter and LendingTree, and will spin them off into a separate company. After that, Liberty Interactive will change its name to QVC Group and will focus on online retail.

General Communications jumped $12.33, or 60 percent, to $32.89 and Liberty Interactive added 85 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $20.82.

STAPLES TRYING AGAIN? Office supply company Staples climbed after the Wall Street Journal reported that Staples is talking to private equity firms about a potential sale. Staples tried to buy competitor Office Depot for $6.3 billion, but gave up on that effort last May after regulators opposed it and a federal judge agreed, saying it would reduce competition. Staples jumped $1.20, or 13.9 percent, to $9.86.

CONN IS ON: Furniture and mattress retailer Conn's surged after it announced a deal with Progressive Leasing, which will offer lease-to-own options to customers who don't qualify for credit offered by Conn's. The contract between the companies will last for three years and Progressive said it could improve its sales. The company's fourth-quarter adjusted profit and sales were also a bit better than analysts expected. The stock rose $2.30, or 27.2 percent, to $10.75.

LIGHTS OUT: Lighting maker Acuity Brands tumbled after its second-quarter profit and sales disappointed analysts. The company said the market for smaller projects remains weak, while sales in Europe, Mexico, and some other international markets were down and manufacturing costs were higher. The stock shed $29.71, or 14.6 percent, to $174.35.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 28 cents to $50.52 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 44 cents to $53.57 a barrel in London.

BONDS: Bond prices inched lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.34 percent from 2.33 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 110.55 yen from 110.96 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0651 from $1.0665.

OVERSEAS: Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent and the CAC 40 in France rose 0.1 percent. In Germany, the DAX added 0.1 percent. The Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.9 percent as the yen gained against the U.S. dollar. The South Korean Kospi slipped 0.3 percent. Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai were closed for public holidays.

(KA)

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