Stocks Dip Ahead of Busy Earnings Week

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes dipped Monday, ahead of a busy week of corporate earnings reports and a meeting of the Federal Reserve. Global stock markets were mixed, while the price of oil rose.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,470, as of 12:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 51 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,529. The Nasdaq composite rose 9 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,397.

If the S&P 500 ends the day lower, it would mark the first three-day losing streak for the index in a month. The recent declines have been mostly modest though, and the S&P 500 remains within a quarter of a percent of its record close.

EARNINGS WAVE: More than a third of the companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to report their second-quarter earnings this week, including many big technology names.

Analysts are expecting another round of strong reports this quarter and are calling for overall growth of 7.5 percent in earnings per share, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. They've been ratcheting up their forecasts in recent weeks - the call was for 6.1 percent growth a month ago - due to higher forecasts for technology and industrial companies.

If the stronger earnings do come through, it would help justify the big move stock prices have made to record highs this year. The reporting season got off to a promising start after banks led off with encouraging results, said Ann Miletti, senior portfolio manager at Wells Fargo Asset Management. Perhaps more important, though, will be what companies say about how they see trends shaking out for the balance of the year, she said.

"I do worry a little bit about some of the CEO optimism waning a little, given the fact that we haven't seen much from the administration in terms of being able to pass a health care bill or start talking about tax relief," she said. Investors and CEOs don't seem to have given up on tax reform, "but we're still in this slow-growth environment, where investors are trying to see if we can break out of this range."

FED FACTOR: The Federal Reserve's policymaking committee begins a two-day meeting on Tuesday, following its decision last month to raise short-term interest rates for the third time since December. The central bank also announced plans to start gradually paring its bond holdings later this year, a move that could cause rates to rise. Investors in recent weeks have questioned whether the European Central Bank will begin to tap the brakes on its own stimulus for the economy.

NERFED: Hasbro fell $11.68, or 10.1 percent, to $104.27 for the deepest loss among stocks in the S&P 500, despite reporting stronger-than-expected earnings for the latest quarter. The stock had already been up nearly 50 percent for the year before the earnings release, and analysts said some investors may have been nervous after Hasbro cited some softness in its Brazil and U.K. markets.

HEALTHY RETURNS: WebMD Health soared $10.81, or 19.6 percent to $66.00 after a subsidiary of investment-firm KKR said it will buy the company for $66.50 per share in cash.

DOWNED: Shares sank across the sporting goods retail industry after Hibbett Sports warned that its sales trends weakened even more than analysts expected for the three months through July. Retailers of all types have been battling against increased competition from online rivals, some better than others.

Hibbett on Monday said it was starting its own e-commerce site. Its stock fell $5.97, or 30.3 percent, to $13.73. Foot Locker lost $1.82, or 3.9 percent, to $45.39, and Dick's Sporting Goods dropped $1.16, or 3.1 percent, to $36.00.

IMF'S FORECASTS: The International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for economic growth this year in Europe, Japan and China. But it also cut its outlook for the United States after Washington has had a more difficult time than expected in pushing through corporate tax cuts and other pro-business legislation. On the whole, the IMF left its forecast for worldwide economic growth at 3.5 percent.

MARKETS ABROAD: Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.6 percent, and South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent, and India's Sensex added 0.7 percent.

In Europe, France's CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent and the FTSE 100 in London dropped 1 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $46.27 per barrel. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose 46 cents to $48.77.

Natural gas fell 6 cents to $2.91 per 1,000 cubic feet, while heating oil and wholesale gasoline were both close to flat.

Gold was flat at $1,254.90 per ounce, silver was unchanged at $16.46 per ounce, and copper added a penny to $2.74 per pound.

YIELDS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 2.25 percent from 2.24 percent late Friday, and the two-year yield held steady at 1.34 percent.

CURRENCIES: The euro dipped to $1.1637 from $1.1677 late Friday, and the British pound rose to $1.3029 from $1.3007.

(BE)