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Media companies, retailers give stocks a boost

NEW YORK -Stocks barely budged by Monday's close even as media companies and retailers gained ground. Hotel chains Starwood and Marriott climbed again as Marriott and Chinese insurance company Anbang Insurance Group try to buy Starwood.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.7 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at 17,535. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,037. The Nasdaq composite index lost 6.7 points to finish at 4,767.

The bidding for the Starwood Hotel chain continued as a group of investors led by China's Anbang Insurance Group offered to buy the company for $88.66 a share, or more than $15 billion. Starwood said the offer looks better than the latest bid from rival Marriott. Starwood added $1.62, or 2 percent, to $83.75, and Marriott gained $2.70, or 3.9 percent, to $71.34.

Starwood is up 19 percent in the last two weeks.

Time Warner climbed after a strong opening weekend for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." Despite weak reviews from critics and some skepticism from fans, the movie brought in about $424 million worldwide, including $170 million in the U.S. That was one of the best opening weekends of all time and a good sign for Time Warner's planned series of movies based on DC Comics characters.

Time Warner rose $2.53, or 3.6 percent, to $72.54.

Cosmetics giant Avon Products said it reached a deal with activist investors that headed off a possible proxy fight. Avon named Cathy Ross, a former executive with FedEx Express, to its board through an agreement with Barington Capital. Avon stock rose 36 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $4.64.

Noble Energy slumped after Israel's Supreme Court struck down a deal that would have given Noble and other companies the right to start pumping natural gas from offshore deposits. The stock shed $2.65, or 8.2 percent, to $29.69.

Pandora skidded after the streaming music company announced a management shakeup. Co-founder Tim Westergren will replace Brian McAndrews as CEO. The stock tumbled $1.33, or 12.1 percent, to $9.60.

Time Warner led consumer stocks, including media companies, higher. Netflix rose $2.85, or 2.9 percent, to $101.21, and Disney added 87 cents to $98.09. Starwood and Marriott also contributed to the sector's gains.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 18 cents to $39.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, lost 29 cents to $40.74 a barrel in London.

On Friday, while the U.S. markets were closed for the Good Friday holiday, the government said the economy grew 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter, above the previous estimate of 1 percent. Consumer spending and home construction kept the economy growing.

The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending continued to grow in February, but for the third straight month, it rose by only a small amount. Still, economists think consumer spending will grow at a faster pace as the year progresses.

Asian stocks were mostly lower Monday after Chinese industrial profits rebounded and U.S. economic growth was stronger than expected. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent. Seoul's Kospi edged down 0.1 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent. European markets were closed for the Easter holiday.

Bond prices increased, and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dipped to 1.87 percent from 1.91 percent. The euro inched up to $1.1196 from $1.1177 late Thursday. The dollar rose to 113.38 yen from 112.81 yen.

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