* Investors looking ahead to bellwether company earnings
* Merck up after FDA review, strategic options plans
* Suntory Holdings to acquire Beam for $83.50 per share
* Lululemon, Sodastream, Express fall after outlooks
* Indexes: Dow down 0.1 pct, S&P down 0.1 pct, Nasdaq flat
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Jan 13 U.S. stocks dipped modestly on
Monday as investors awaited an onslaught of corporate results to
gauge how companies are faring amid mixed signs on economic
While early reads on the season have been strong, market
participants are looking for further justification that stocks
are fairly valued with indexes near all-time highs.
Following a jump of almost 30 percent last year, the S&P 500
is above the mean forward price-to-earnings ratio and is at its
highest level in nearly seven years. While earnings are seen
rising 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Thomson
Reuters data, the 9.8 ratio of negative guidance to positive
outlooks is at a record.
"People are sitting on their hands, waiting for major
results to figure out how strong this season may be," said
Douglas DePietro, managing director at Evercore Partners in New
DePietro was looking forward to results from JPMorgan Chase
& Co and Wells Fargo & Co, both of which are
slated to report on Tuesday. General Electric Co, Goldman
Sachs and Intel Corp are also among the names
reporting this week.
Equity gains have largely come on accommodative monetary
policies by the Federal Reserve, although not all economic
indicators enjoyed a similar boost. The December payroll report,
released on Friday, came in much lower than expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 25.30
points, or 0.15 percent, at 16,411.75. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 1.93 points, or 0.10 percent, at 1,840.44.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.73 points, or 0.04
percent, at 4,176.39.
Losses were limited in the Dow and S&P by Merck & Co
, which rose 2.9 percent to $51.33 after a preliminary
review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the
company's experimental blood clot-preventing drug vorapaxar
should be approved.
In addition, the drugmaker said it is pursuing strategic
options for its animal health and consumer businesses and
expects to complete any action it takes this year.
Equities have started 2014 on a lackluster note, dipping 0.3
percent through the first seven trading sessions as market
participants tried to gauge the pace of the winding down of
market-friendly economic stimulus by the Federal Reserve.
In merger news, Beam Inc agreed to be acquired by
Suntory Holdings Limited for $16 billion, including debt, while
British engineering firm Amec said it had provisionally
agreed to buy Foster Wheeler in a cash and share deal
that values the company at $3.13 billion.
Shares of Beam jumped 24 percent to $83.16 while Foster rose
1.3 percent to $31.86.
"Merger and acquisition activity continues to be an
underlying bullish sentiment for the market," said DePietro.
"It's one of the most positive things reflecting on the market."
A string of companies tumbled after forecasting earnings.
Lululemon Athletica Inc fell 16 percent to $50.07
after the yoga wear retailer cut its forecast for the
fourth-quarter due to weak sales in January.
Sodastream International slumped 21.2 percent to
$39.30 after the home beverage system maker lowered its earnings
outlook for 2013. Apparel retailer Express Inc
lost 3.2 percent to $18.41 after it lowered its
But Wendy's outlook was a bright spot, sending
shares up 8.3 percent to $9.14 after the fast-food restaurant
chain estimated adjusted quarterly earnings above analysts'
expectations, as expenses fell due to franchising many