U.S. stocks wobble

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks couldn’t hang on to an early gain and finished mostly lower Monday as technology companies slipped. Bond prices continue to fall and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note drew closer to 3 percent, a milestone it hasn’t reached since January 2014.

Investors once again focused on corporate deals Monday as utility company Vectren agreed to be bought by CenterPoint Energy for $6 billion, while the CEO of Sears called for the company to sell more assets and health care products company Henry Schein said it will split off its animal health unit. Aluminum producers tumbled after the Treasury Department moved to ease sanctions against Russian aluminum company Rusal.

Stocks have faded over the last few days as bond yields continued to climb. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note continued to trade at four-year highs, rising to 2.98 percent from 2.96 percent. Bond yields have climbed this year as investors are starting to see signs that inflation is picking up and the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates. The 10-year yield stood at 2.43 percent at the end of 2017.

Since the global financial crisis in 2008-09, a combination of low inflation expectations and a bond-buying program by the Federal Reserve have helped keep bond yields low. That pushed stocks higher by making bonds less appealing by comparison. With the Fed no longer buying bonds and investors expecting greater inflation, analysts say higher yields could make bonds more attractive.

Duane McAllister, senior portfolio manager for Baird Advisors, said he doesn’t think rising yields are a problem for the stock market. He said they are an opportunity for investors to diversify their holdings at a time of increased market volatility.

“Three percent is an important milestone on the continued trend toward higher interest rates,” he said. “It shouldn’t lead anyone, whether you’re an individual investor or an institutional investor, to run for the hills.”

The S&P 500 index rose 0.15 points to 2,670.29. It rose as much as 12 points before midday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 14.25 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,448.69. The Nasdaq composite gave up 17.52 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,128.60. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks declined 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,562.12.

Earlier this month, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research survey of fund managers concluded that if the 10-year yield rises to 3.50 percent, investors will start buying bonds while selling stocks. And when bond yields rise, it pushes up interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, making it more expensive to borrow money. That can slow down economic growth.