updated 6/7/2005 8:11:48 AM ET 2005-06-07T12:11:48

Wall Street eked out a modest gain Monday, despite a dearth of economic news and a general lack of interest among stock traders. A flurry of multibillion-dollar merger deals did little to encourage buying as uncertainty over the economy prevailed.

Major Market Indices

Stock indexes meandered in and out of negative ground for most of the day, as many traders sat on the sidelines of the market. Without any economic reports or corporate earnings to provide insights, investors’ questions about the economy — and whether its slowing growth will be aggravated by high oil prices — went unanswered.

Wall Street’s concerns overshadowed the latest round of mergers and acquisitions, topped by Washington Mutual Inc.’s planned takeover of Providian Financial Corp. in the financial sector. The light volume and a small ratio between advancing and declining stocks illustrated the market’s malaise.

“There’s just not a lot out there that’s going to push this market around,” said Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Financial Services Group in Philadelphia. “The problem we have here is that there’s just no economic data, nothing out there that will give us anything to really act on.”

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 6.06 points, or 0.1 percent, at Monday’s close, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 1.49 points, or 0.1 percent. The tech-rich Nasdaq composite index added 4.33 points, or 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures trading has been awash in worry and speculation over the past two weeks, with the latest concern being the advent of the Atlantic hurricane season, which traders fear could hurt refining capacity in the South. Crude oil prices hit a six-week high earlier in the session, but gave back their gains later in the day . A barrel of light crude settled at $54.49, down 54 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Many on Wall Street were waiting for Thursday, when Greenspan was scheduled to testify before Congress on the state of the economy. With investors worried that the economy could slow too quickly, harming corporate profits, Greenspan’s testimony was seen as a possible boon to the market — and investors appeared willing to wait for it.

“You got people taking a longer-term approach, waiting for the Fed. And in the meantime, we’re holding in there, which isn’t bad,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen a healthy pullback after our rally here. We’re just drifting, but I’ll take this over an aggressive sell-off any day.”

While the spate of mergers would normally be a positive for stocks, much of the trading was limited to individual stocks, with the lack of trading interest leaving Wall Street unable to mount a rally.

Heading the list of merger deals, Washington Mutual was down $1.03 at $40.54 as the company announced a takeover of Providian for $6.45 billion in cash and stock, or $18.71 per share, that would solidify Washington Mutual’s position on the West Cost. Providian lost 33 cents to $17.63.

Real estate investment trust Catellus Development Corp. surged 12.8 percent, or $3.75, to $32.99 after Prologis Trust announced it would buy the rival trust for $3.6 billion in cash and stock and another $1.3 billion in assumed debt. The deal will create the world’s largest network of warehouses and distribution services. Prologis dropped $1.26 to $40.11.

E-Trade Financial Corp. climbed 25 cents to $12.65 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the online brokerage sweetened its unsolicited takeover bid for rival Ameritrade Holding Corp. by $500 million and also offered Ameritrade a larger stake in the combined company. The move comes as Ameritrade, which climbed 3 cents to $14.93, pursues a bid for Toronto-Dominion Bank’s TD Waterhouse division. Toronto-Dominion slipped 5 cents to $42.87.

Apple Computer Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs confirmed that the company would use Intel Corp. microprocessors in its Macintosh computers , ending a decade-long chip deal with IBM Corp. Apple lost 32 cents to $37.92, while Intel fell 16 cents to $27.17 and IBM dropped 79 cents to $75.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.26 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.38 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.38 percent, and Germany’s Xetra-DAX dropped 0.29 percent.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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