Stocks mixed as investors grab defensive stocks

Wall Street is back on the defensive.

Stocks ended mixed but well off their lows Tuesday as early concerns about a barrage of stock offerings eased and rising oil prices lifted energy stocks. The Dow Jones industrials rose 50 points, while broader indicators fell.

Investors turned to defensive corners of the market, driving up shares of drugmakers like Pfizer and food and drink producers like Coca-Cola, which tend to hold up better in economic downturns. Even strapped consumers aren't as quick to cut back on medication and food.

The fluctuations came as some traders worried that the economic recovery won't be as brisk as hoped when stocks were posting big gains over the past eight weeks. Stock offerings from companies trying to raise cash has stirred concerns about the loss in value that existing shares would incur as more shares are issued.

But the dip also brought investors looking to jump into a market that has rallied more than 30% since early March.

"You have people who missed this mammoth rally and now those people are taking the opportunity on any pullback to buy," said Jeffrey Frankel, president of Stuart Frankel & Co.

The financial stocks that pounded the market to 12-year lows in March and then led the bounce higher fell for a second day. Even after sliding this week, bank shares have roughly doubled since early March, as measured by the KBW Bank Index.

Investors also pulled money from technology stocks after the Nasdaq composite index closed at a six-month high last week. The slide Monday and mixed finish Tuesday makes it difficult to tell whether Wall Street might be able to restart its stalled two-month rally.

The Dow rose 50.34, or 0.6%, to 8,469.11 after falling 155 on Monday. The S&P 500 index slipped 0.89, or 0.1%, to 908.35 and the Nasdaq fell 15.32, or 0.9%, to 1,715.92.

Analysts said a break in the market's ascent had been overdue. The jump came as economic and corporate reports signaled the economy could be stabilizing.

Matt Lloyd, chief investment strategist at Advisors Asset Management, expects the rally will resume and said that a slowdown is healthy.

"We need to kind of walk at a brisk pace as opposed to sprint," he said.

The market retreated Monday after four banks announced plans to raise capital by selling common stock.

How well the market can absorb the new shares likely will be an important tests of its health, some analysts say. TrimTabs Investment Research estimates companies will introduce at least $50 billion in new stock into the market this month. That would be the highest since May 2001.

The pace of offerings could be a good sign, analysts said. Months ago, companies whose shares had been pummeled wouldn't have turned to the stock market for cash.

"Longer term, bigger picture, it is one of those underpinnings of strength," said Steve Sachs, director of trading at Rydex Investments.

Traders grew jittery Tuesday after Anadarko Petroleum's stock fell below the $45.50 offering price for a sale of 30 million shares. But the stock ended above that level, falling $2.93, or 6%, to $45.91.

Some banks selling stock fell for a second day. Regions Financial tumbled 57 cents, or 9.6%, to $5.35, while SunTrust Banks fell $2.30, or 12.4%, to $16.21.

Investors in the nation's big automakers also worried about seeing the value of their shares diluted. Ford Motor, which hasn't taken government aid, fell $1.07, or 17.6%, to $5.01 after announcing a stock offering.

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