NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks edged lower Monday as concerns about the direction of the Federal Reserve's interest rate policy weighed on investors. Tax preparer H&R Block slumped after the company said that its attempt to sell a banking unit was getting bogged down.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,965 as of 1:41 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 16 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,978. The Nasdaq composite fell 18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,457.
THE QUOTE: The stock market's bull run has faltered in recent weeks and the S&P 500 index logged its biggest monthly drop since January in September.
Stocks rebounded on Friday after a report showed a pickup in hiring last month, but many investors remain uncertain about the outlook for stocks as the Fed nears the end of its stimulus program and considers raising rates.
"The tug of war between the bulls and the bears is ongoing now," said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial.
MINUTE TIME: The Fed is due to release minutes on Wednesday of its policy meeting last month. Investors will be watching for clues about the likely timing of any interest rate hike.
BIG SPLIT: Hewlett-Packard gained after announcing that it is splitting itself in two. One company will focus on personal computers and printing and the other on technology services such as data storage, servers and software. The stock climbed $2.18, or 6.2 percent, to $37.38.
HEALTHY MERGER: New Jersey medical equipment maker Becton Dickinson and Co. says it will pay $12.2 billion for rival Carefusion in a combination focused on medication systems for hospitals and pharmacies. Carefusion's stock jumped $10.61, or 23 percent, to $56.78. Becton climbed $8.01, or 6.9 percent, to $123.70.
BANKRUPTCY SHOCK: Apple supplier GT Advanced Technologies plunged $9.85, or 89 percent, to $1.21 after the company said that it was filing for bankruptcy. The company is developing sapphire materials for Apple's products.
ENERGY SLUMP: Oil prices moved between gains and losses. Benchmark U.S. crude was up 50 cents to $90.25 a barrel, close to its lowest price in more than a year.
BLOCK SALE: H&R Block logged the biggest drop in the S&P 500 after saying that its latest attempt to sell its banking business is getting delayed in the regulatory approval process. The tax preparer said it would not be able to complete the deal before the next tax season. Its stock dropped $1.77, or 5.6 percent, to $29.89.
EUROPEAN STOCKS: Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to 6,555 and Germany's DAX advanced 0.9 percent to 9,279. France's CAC 40 added 0.3 percent to 4,292.
BRAZILIAN BOOST: Brazil's stock market surged after the left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff was forced into a runoff race against Aecio Neves, a center-right challenger, who only surged in the final week of the campaign. Rousseff is promising to expand Brazil's social programs and continue strong state involvement in the economy, while Neves says he will pursue more centrist economic approaches, such as central bank independence, more privatizations and the pursuit of trade deals with Europe and the United States.
Brazil's benchmark Ibovespa index rose 5 percent to 57,277.
CURRENCIES AND BONDS: The dollar fell to 109.04 yen and the euro inched up to $1.2593. U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.42 percent.