Stocks weaken as IMF lowers estimate for US growth

Stocks closed mostly lower Monday after the International Monetary Fund cut its estimate for U.S. economic growth.

Stocks closed mostly lower Monday after the International Monetary Fund cut its estimate for U.S. economic growth.

Alcoa Inc. fell in after-hours trading after reporting sales that came in below what analysts were expecting. The aluminum maker was the first major company to report first-quarter earnings.

Traders are concerned about the effect of higher oil and food costs on corporate profits. Stocks turned lower in the afternoon after the IMF said that higher gas prices could slow the pace of the U.S. economy and offset a boost from the Federal Reserve's bond-buying program.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.06 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to close at 12,381.11. The broader S&P 500 index fell 3.71, or 0.3 percent, to 1,324.46. Energy companies fell 1.9 percent, the most of any of the 10 company groups that make up the index.

The Nasdaq composite lost 8.91, or 0.3 percent, to 2,771.51.

After the market closed, Alcoa Inc. reported a first-quarter profit on higher aluminum prices and sales, partially offset by a weaker dollar and higher costs for energy and raw materials. Sales fell short of expectations, sending the stock down 2.6 percent to $17.31 in after-hours trading. Alcoa is traditionally the first of the 30 companies that make up the Dow average to report earnings each quarter.

Analysts have been hopeful that overall corporate earnings will come in ahead of expectations for the ninth consecutive quarter, but they still have a long list of worries including high oil prices and an aftershock that struck Japan on the one-month anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster. It was the second major aftershock in less than a week to hit the country, which is the world's third-largest economy.

Much of the earnings growth for companies so far during the recovery has come from cutting jobs and other costs. Analysts say this quarter's earnings season will show more revenue growth.

More than 30 percent of companies could report revenue growth of at least 10 percent, according to S&P senior index analyst Howard Silverblatt. Analysts expect Alcoa, for example, to say its first-quarter revenue jumped 26 percent to $6.16 billion from $4.89 billion. The global economic recovery has meant more demand for Alcoa's aluminum.

Companies are also turning to deals to help them grow. Endo Pharmaceuticals agreed to buy American Medical Systems Inc. for about $2.6 billion, a premium of 34 percent. Endo rose 0.5 percent to $41.06, and American Medical jumped 32 percent to $29.50.

Level 3 Communications rose 18 percent to $1.70. The company agreed to buy Global Crossing Ltd., which jumped 69 percent to $24.97. The all-stock transaction is valued at about $1.9 billion.

Meanwhile the struggle to control NYSE Euronext Inc. escalated.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and IntercontinentalExchange Inc. said their $11.3 billion bid for the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange was rejected without any talks. NYSE Euronext said it was sticking by its $10 billion deal to be acquired by Deutsche Boerse, a German exchange operator.

NYSE Euronext fell nearly 3 percent to $37.59.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 3.5 billion shares.

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