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U.S. stocks slip as oil skids 6 percent

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell Monday as energy prices and oil and gas stocks continue to shape the direction of the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 208 points, or 1.3 percent, to 15,885. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell nearly 30 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,877. The Nasdaq composite gave up 73 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,518.

Friday was the best day for the S&P 500 since early December and the best day for the Nasdaq composite index since September. That helped stocks make their first weekly gain in the last four. This January has been one of the worst for the Dow and the S&P 500 in history. The Nasdaq composite is down almost 11 percent this month.

The price of benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.85, or 5.7 percent, to $30.34 a barrel in New York, and Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost $1.68, or 5.2 percent, to $30.50 a barrel in London. U.S. oil jumped 9 percent Friday after setting 12-year lows earlier in the week.

Paper and packaging companies including WestRock, International Paper and Packaging Corp. fell on concerns about product prices.

Mark Wilde, managing director BMO Capital Markets, said stocks in that sector are falling because an influential trade publication estimated that prices for containerboard, an important product, fell sharply in January.

"I think it confirms people's fears," Wilde said. "Falling prices are going to mean lower earnings."

Tyco International and Johnson Controls said they will combine. Tyco makes fire suppression systems and Johnson Controls makes ventilation systems, auto seating and car batteries. Both stocks have struggled as investors worried about their growth.

Based on current values the combined company will have a value of about $36 billon.

Companies spent a record $5 trillion on acquisitions and other deals last year. That was almost 40 percent more than they spent in 2014. While few deals have been announced in the first weeks of 2016, business technology company Intralinks expects companies will strike more deals in the first half of this year than they did last year. It forecasts an increase of 3.5 percent, which suggests almost $2.3 trillion in value.

John Manley, chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo Fund Management, said he expects another big year of deals even though interest rates are likely to rise. That's because companies around the world are still looking for ways to become more efficient and lift their earnings and sales growth.

"I have no reason to think it's going to slow down," he said.

Telecommunications stocks were the only industrial sector on the S&P 500 to trade higher. They are considered a conservative investment and tend to rise during periods of market uncertainty.

Caterpillar sank after Goldman Sachs downgraded the heavy machinery company to "Sell." Analyst Jerry Revich said companies around the world are spending less money on machinery because commodity prices have dropped.

McDonald's rose after the restaurant chain said its U.S. sales grew 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, its best result in more than three years. The company said its all-day breakfast menu and the warm weather helped its sales. Overall, its sales rose 5 percent.

Business economists became more pessimistic about profits and sales than they were last fall and expect slower economic growth, according to a survey by the National Association of Business Economists. However, most of the survey participants said their companies plan to raise wages in the first quarter. That's the largest proportion in more than a year.

Twitter continued to slide after the company said four executives, including its head of engineering, will leave the company. The stock lost 82 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $17.02. Twitter shares are trading at all-time lows, down 56 percent in the last year.

Asian markets rose. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.9 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.4 percent. Germany's DAX lost 0.3 percent, France's CAC 40 slid 0.6 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.4 percent.

Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents, of 5 percent, to $1.03 a gallon. Heating oil dropped 6 cents, or 6.1 percent, to 93.5 cents a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.9 cents to $2.158 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The price of gold rose $9 to $1,105.30 an ounce and silver gained 19.7 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $14.254 an ounce. Copper fell less than half a cent to $1.998 per pound.

U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.02 percent from 2.06 percent. The euro rose to $1.0836 from $1.0791 late Friday. The dollar fell to 118.48 yen from 118.78 yen.

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