Stocks drift between gains and losses as investors weigh earnings, mergers and news on Greece


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U.S. stocks were mixed in midday trading Monday, reflecting market uncertainty about how an election in Greece of a party opposed to that country's bailout plan may affect the Eurozone. Investors also weighed corporate merger news and company earnings.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial fell 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,641 as of 12:46 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 shed less than one point to 2,051. The Nasdaq composite added four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,762.

GREEK ELECTION: Sunday's election victory by Greece's Syriza party, which has vowed to end painful austerity policies, has raised concerns about whether Greece will break free from the continent's monetary block. The country's current bailout plan concludes at the end of February.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 1.4 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.7 percent.

THE QUOTE: "European markets reflected worse expectations for the outcome of this election and, as a result, they're seeing this as better-than-expected news," said Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones. "Whereas U.S. markets are reacting to what uncertainty can come as a result of it."

SECTOR VIEW: Half of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved lower, and utilities stocks dropped the most. Energy stocks led the gainers as oil prices rebounded after slipping earlier in the day.

BAD MEMORY: Computer hard drive makers Seagate Technology and Western Digital were among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500 after Seagate reported weakness out of Europe. Seagate sank $5.56, or 8.7 percent, to $58.40, while Western Digital shed $5.92, or 5.6 percent, to $100.18.

TOYLAND TURNOVER: Mattel shares slid 3.9 percent on news that CEO Bryan Stockton resigned after about three years of leading the struggling toymaker. Mattel also reported preliminary fourth-quarter results that fell short of Wall Street expectations. The stock fell $1.08 to $26.96.

PACKAGED MERGER: Packaging company MeadWestvaco has agreed to merge with Rock-Tenn Co. to create a $16 billion company, which will be named before the deal closes. MeadWestvaco jumped 15 percent, to lead all stocks in the S&P 500. The stock gained $6.73 to $51.79. Rock-Tenn vaulted $4.46, or 7.1 percent, to $67.45.

BUYING BREAKFAST: Post Holdings jumped 13.2 percent on news that the company has agreed to acquire privately held MOM Brands in a deal that involves $1.05 billion in cash and nearly 2.5 million shares of stock. MOM's products include cereals, hot wheat and oatmeal products. Post shares gained $5.54 to $46.98.

SHARING RISK: Reinsurers Axis Capital Holdings and PartnerRe are combining in an $11 billion deal. Investors cheered the news, lifting Axis shares $2.60, or 5.3 percent, to $51.91. PartnerRe gained $1.05 to $115.19.

ELECTION AFTERMATH: In Greece, the main stock market recouped some of its early losses to trade 3.2 percent lower, a sign that investors are not as jittery as they may have been in the initial aftermath of the election.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 46 cents to $46.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has plunged since June, when it traded above $107. The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah late last week is unlikely to change Saudi's oil production levels, a key factor in the global prices, analysts have said. But his death has created a small amount of additional uncertainty.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.80 percent.

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