* S&P 500 coming off biggest weekly decline since June
* Volume seen light on Veterans Day with bond market closed
* Titanium Metals, Jefferies Group soar on merger deals
* Dow off 0.03 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 12 U.S. stocks mostly ticked
higher on Monday, but persistent concerns about the upcoming
debate on the fiscal cliff limited gains even after last week's
Barclays cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,325,
citing fiscal cliff issues.
The S&P 500 dropped 2.4 percent last week, the worst week
for the benchmark index since June. It closed below its 200-day
moving average for the first time in five months, and an
extended run under that level could signal further losses ahead.
Trading volume is expected to be light, with the U.S. bond
market and government offices closed on Monday for the Veterans
Last week's weakness was partly propelled by concerns about
whether there will be a timely solution to avoid the fiscal
cliff, a combination of government spending cuts and tax
increases set to go into effect early next year unless Congress
acts to change the law before then. Though most consider it
unlikely that no deal will be reached, analysts fear going over
the cliff could push the economy back into recession
"Right now, all eyes are on Washington, and we're just
waiting," said Matthew Keator, a partner in the Keator Group, a
wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts. "We're hopeful
something gets done, but we've been disappointed before. We need
to see something done if we're going to remain up for the year."
The S&P 500 is still up 10 percent for 2012, though recent
months have eroded those gains. The Nasdaq has fallen for five
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 3.69
points, or 0.03 percent, at 12,811.70. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 0.87 of a point, or 0.06 percent, at
1,380.72. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 4.53 points,
or 0.16 percent, at 2,909.41.
Some major acquisition news gave investors some reasons for
optimism on Monday. Precision Castparts Corp offered to
buy Titanium Metals Corp for $2.9 billion, while
Leucadia National Corp agreed to buy investment bank
Jefferies Group for $3.6 billion.
Shares of Titanium surged 42.3 percent to $16.46 while
Jefferies climbed 13.5 percent to $16.19. Precision rose 5.5
percent to $180.67. In contrast, Leucadia fell 4 percent to
"After last week, there could be some bargain opportunities
out there," said Keator, who helps oversee $500 million in
assets. "Especially since if there is a fiscal cliff deal, that
could lead to a tremendous move on the upside."
Overseas, a report over the weekend showed China's export
growth climbed to a five-month high, beating expectations and
adding to recent data suggesting the country's seven straight
quarters of slowing economic growth have ended.
In addition, the Greek parliament on Sunday approved an
austerity budget for next year, a necessary step to unblock a
new tranche of credit from the European Union and International
Monetary Fund before the government runs out of cash. Still,
investors remain concerned about whether the EU and IMF will
agree to send the next tranche.
Apple Inc rose 0.6 percent to $550.42 after the
company announced a global patent settlement with HTC Corp
, as well as a 10-year licensing agreement. Apple's
stock has been under pressure recently, dropping more than 20
percent from its 2012 high to enter bear market territory.
Homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc reported fourth-quarter
earnings that beat expectations, helped by a jump in orders.
D.R. Horton's shares gained 3.1 percent to $21.23.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, of the 449
companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 63.3
percent have topped expectations. But only 38.2 percent of
companies have topped revenue expectations - well below the 62
percent average since 2002.