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Stocks mixed ahead of this week's Fed meeting

A sign for Wall Street on the side

A sign for Wall Street on the side of building near the New York Stock Exchange on March 4, 2013. World stock markets sank Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, on weak Chinese economic data as investors looked ahead to a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting and Scotland's independence referendum. Credit: AP

U.S. stocks were mixed on Monday, ahead of this week's potentially pivotal Federal Reserve meeting. The Fed is nearing the end of its bond-buying stimulus program, and investors will be looking for clues about when the central bank will start raising interest rates.

A weak report on U.S. manufacturing also weighed on the stock market, and small-company stocks slumped, pushing the Russell 2000 and the Nasdaq composite lower. In Europe, investors looked ahead to Scotland's independence referendum, which could shake up U.K. financial markets.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 49 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,036 as of 3:07 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was unchanged at 1,985. The Nasdaq composite fell 45 points, or 1 percent, to 4,521. The Russell 2000 index slipped 11 points, or 1 percent, to 1,149.

FED MEETING: The main market event this week is likely to be the Fed's two-day policy meeting, which starts on Tuesday. Investors will be watching for any change in the central bank's guidance about the direction for interest rates. Analysts have warned over the past week that the Fed might raise interest rates sooner than expected as the economy improves.

M&A ON TAP: Molson Coors was up $4.13, or 5.7 percent, to $75.92, after touching an all-time high. The brewer's stock jumped on merger news in the beer industry. Heineken said late Sunday that it has rejected a takeover bid by rival SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer. Reports said that SABMiller tried to buy Heineken as a defense against an acquisition bid from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the industry leader.

THE ECONOMY: Investors got mixed news on the economy Monday. U.S. manufacturing output declined in August for the first time in seven months, reflecting a sharp fall in production at auto plants. On the other hand, a gauge of manufacturing in New York state jumped to 27.5 in August from 14.7 in July.

THE QUOTE: Investors shouldn't focus too much about the upcoming Fed meeting, because policy makers will keep rates low until they are convinced that the economic recovery is entrenched, said Jackie Perrins, a global investment specialist at JPMorgan Private Bank.

"There may be some short-term reaction, but in the medium and long-term, it's really about earnings and the economy, which we believe are on track," said Perrins.

TECH SLUMP: Technology stocks fell the most of the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 index. The sector slipped 0.6 percent. The consumer discretionary sector, which includes luxury retailers and entertainment companies, was the second-biggest decliner, easing 0.5 percent.

SCOTLAND'S CHOICE: Another big event this week is Thursday's independence referendum in Scotland. With opinion polls showing the vote too close to call, there's potential for some sizeable move in U.K. markets. The pound has turned volatile in recent weeks as opinion polls have narrowed. On Monday, the pound was 0.2 percent lower at $1.6231.

EUROPEAN STOCKS: In Europe, Germany's DAX closed up 0.1 percent, while France's CAC-40 declined 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was unchanged.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained against the euro, but fell against the Japanese yen. The dollar rose 0.2 percent to $1.29 per euro. It fell 0.1 percent to 107.2 against the yen.

BONDS: In government bond trading, prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which falls when prices rise, dropped to 2.59 percent from 2.61 percent late Friday, when it reached a two-month high.

METALS: Gold rose $3.6, or 0.3 percent, to $1,253.10. Silver gained 1.4 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $18.62. Copper fell 2.1 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $3.09 a pound.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 68 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $92.95.

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