Stocks flat in late slide

Stocks ended flat Monday after expectations that a tax-cut package will pass the Senate kept them higher for much of the day. Traders were also encouraged by a handful of deals: General Electric Co. is buying British oil field company Wellstream Holdings Plc, and Dell Inc. is acquiring network storage company Compellent Technologies Inc. The Standard & Poor's 500 index eked out a new 2010 high for the fourth time in four days, rising 0.06 point to 1,240.46. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 18.24, or 0.16 percent, to 11,428.56, just 15.52 points from its 2010 closing high, on Nov. 5. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.63, or 0.48 percent, to 2,624.91, snapping a six-day streak of new 2010 highs.

Acquisition by Melville firm

Melville-based MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc. has completed an acquisition of Rutland Tool & Supply Co. in Whittier, Calif., a subsidiary of Lawson Products Inc., for about $11 million in cash plus the assumption of certain liabilities. Rutland, founded in 1955, had sales of $33.7 million in 2009 to some 20,000 customers. MSC expects the acquisition to add to earnings in late fiscal 2011 or early fiscal 2012. - EMI ENDO

Fewer homes 'underwater'

The number of homeowners nationwide who owe more than their houses are worth fell for the third straight quarter this summer. About 10.8 million households, or 22.5 percent of all mortgaged homes, were "underwater" in the July-September quarter, housing data firm CoreLogic said Monday. That's down from 23 percent, or 11 million households, in the second quarter. The decline came mainly because more homes had fallen into foreclosure and not because home prices had increased. In a healthy housing market, about 5 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owe more than their homes are worth, CoreLogic's economist Sam Khater estimates. The firm does not have historical data before the third quarter of 2009.

GE buying British pipeline firm

U.S. conglomerate GE says it is buying British oil and gas services group Wellstream Holdings Plc for $1.3 billion to bolster its energy unit. GE said Monday that Wellstream intends to unanimously recommend the deal to shareholders. The company hopes to complete the sale in the first quarter of next year. Wellstream, which manufactures pipes for the oil and gas sector, has previously rejected two lower offers from GE and had received approaches from other unnamed suitors. The British company has a big presence in Brazil, where exploration is expanding. GE says the deal will also enhance its ability to capitalize on growth in Africa and Asia.

Dell data storage acquisition

Dell Inc. said Monday it is buying Compellent Technologies Inc. for $27.75 a share in cash in the latest data-storage acquisition by a big tech-sector player, highlighting the growing importance of cloud computing. Dell put the final deal's total equity value at about $960 million and the aggregate purchase price at about $820 million, net of Compellent's cash. The companies said they expect the deal to close in early 2011.

Staff and wire reports

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