Stocks Mixed as Oil Climbs

A 10-week peak in crude oil prices and jitters about interest rates weighed heavy on the stock market Monday as Wall Street awaited the beginning of first-quarter financial reports.

The Nasdaq slumped badly in the afternoon, ending down 5.75 points, or 0.25 percent, to 2,333.27. After an early surge, the Dow Jones tumbled in later trading, but still finished the day up 21.29, or 0.19 percent, to 11141.33. The S&P 500’s performance roughly mirrored the Dow’s, closing at 1,296.62, up 1.12, or 0.09 percent.

Crude-oil futures closed up 2 percent to $68.74 in the wake of news reports over the weekend that the U.S. is considering attacking Iran’s nuclear-research facilities, raising the fear that Iran’s oil production could be disrupted. Iran is the world’s No. 4 oil-producing nation.

Many investors Monday no doubt had one eye on a courtroom in Houston, where former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling took the witness stand in his trial on fraud and conspiracy charges. Skilling proclaimed his innocence in the financial and stock-market collapse of the energy company.

Back on Wall Street, techs were among the busiest stocks in Monday’s session. Linux software vendor Red Hat soared 2.42, or 8.82 percent, to $29.85 after announcing it would purchase open source middleware player JBoss, rumored to have been on Oracle’s acquisition list. Red Hat could pay up to $420 million for JBoss.

Microsoft inched up 4 cents, or 0.15 percent, to $27.29. Anti-virus vendor Trend Micro announced today it has extended its agreement with Microsoft to provide anti-virus scanning and cleaning for Hotmail e-mail accounts.

Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems gained 18 cents, or 0.86 percent, to $20.99 after announcing several big-ticket applications-related software products.

Apple Computer fell 1.14, or 1.63 percent, to $68.67, while rival Dell Computer dipped just 4 cents, or 0.13, to $29.72.

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