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US stocks mostly lower in midday trade; LendingTree rockets
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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged lower Monday afternoon as investors began another big week of company earnings and looked ahead to a policy meeting of the Federal Reserve. The Standard & Poor's 500 index remained positive for the year. The index moved into the black for the first time in two months on Friday, propelled by strong earnings from several big tech companies and the prospect of renewed support for the global economy.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 dipped seven points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,068 as of 12:05 p.m. Eastern time. Eight of the 10 S&P 500 sectors were lower, with energy stocks taking the biggest losses. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42 points, 0.2 percent to 17,604 while the Nasdaq composite lost 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,026.

BEATING THE STREET: A busy week of earnings is underway. LendingTree shares rose after the online mortgage broker reported better-than-expected results for the third quarter. LendingTree also raised its revenue estimate for the year and it gave an optimistic forecast for 2016. Its stock rose $22.50, or 23 percent, to $120.50. Medical laboratory operator LabCorp rose $5.27, or 4.7 percent, to $117.22 after its third-quarter results topped Wall Street's estimates.

HOME SALES DROP: Housing stocks came under pressure after a surprise slump in sales of newly built homes. The Commerce Department said sales of new homes plunged 11.5 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted 468,000. That was less than analysts were expecting. New home sales have climbed this year, but higher home prices and slower economic growth both hurt sales, and September's total represented the slowest pace in 10 months.

DR Horton slumped 81 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $30.31, KB Home skidded 37 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $13.61 and PulteGroup lost 32 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $18.02.

DUKE MAKES A DEAL: Duke Energy, the biggest electric company in the U.S., said it will buy Piedmont Natural Gas for about $4.9 billion, or $60 per share. The deal will give Duke about a million new customers in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The companies are already partners on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will be the first major natural gas pipeline serving Eastern North Carolina. Piedmont surged $15.94, or 37.8 percent, to $58.16 while Duke shares fell $1.85, or 2.5 percent, to $71.89.

PEP BOYS: Tire and auto service company Bridgestone said it will buy auto parts and repair company Pep Boys in for $835 million, or $15 per share in cash. The purchase will add 800 locations to Bridgestone's nationwide network of 2,200 tire and automotive service centers. Pep Boys jumped $2.83, or 23.3 percent, to $14.98.

EYES ON THE FED AGAIN: The Federal Reserve will meet again Tuesday and Wednesday, but few investors expect an increase in rates this year because the strength of the global economy remains uncertain. The Fed left interest rates untouched in September, which helped set off a rally that pulled stocks out of the red for 2015.

Last week the Chinese government cut interest rates in order to bolster economic growth. It's cut interest rates six times in the last year. Meanwhile the head of Europe's central bank said it may increase economic stimulus to help the economic recovery in the eurozone.

ENERGY: U.S. crude lost 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $44.10 in New York. Brent Crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 30 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $47.69 a barrel in London.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.06 percent from 2.09 percent late Friday. The dollar declined to 121 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1050.