Stocks closed mostly lower today as bond yields soared to the highest level in more than two years on fear that the Federal Reserve will suggest Tuesday that interest-rate increases may be needed in the future to cool the nation's economic growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 113.16, to close at 11,144.27. At one point, the Dow had been up more than 50 points and was closing in on an all-time high.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Nasdaq composite index lost some of its early momentum but still finished with a gain of 30.81, closing at 3783.87, its 55th record high close of 1999.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 2.94, to 1418.09.
Stocks gave up early gains as the bond market faltered in midafternoon. The price of the Treasury's benchmark 30-year bond fell $7.81 per $1,000 invested, and its yield rose to 6.44 percent from 6.37 percent late Friday. The last time bonds closed with a higher yield was Sept. 15, 1997.
The decline in bond prices was caused by worries about the Federal Reserve's last policymaking meeting of the year, set for Tuesday. Most analysts expect central bankers to leave short-term interest rates unchanged, but many are wary of a change to a "tightening" bias, which would mean the Fed is inclined to raise rates on any future signs of inflation.
"The bond market is saying, 'you can pay now or you can pay later,' " said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis. "The Fed is not likely to raise rates now, but they are fairly likely to do so in February."
Beyond the interest-rate backdrop, the Dow's weakness came largely from Honeywell, which fell 7 1/8 to 56 5/8 after agreeing to acquire Pittway, a maker of alarms and security products, in a deal valued at about $2 billion. Pittway rose 15 7/8 to 44 7/8 as of 5:45 p.m.
Drug stocks were mostly lower in the wake of a $23.3 billion merger planned by Monsanto and Pharmacia & Upjohn that would create the world's 11th-largest pharmaceutical company. Monsanto fell 5 1/8 to 36 5/8 and Pharmacia lost 3 1/8 to 47 1/8 as some analysts questioned the value of the deal.
Concerns about the deal spread throughout the rapidly consolidating sector. Warner-Lambert, which has received competing bids from American Home Products and Pfizer, fell 1-9/16 to 80 3/4.
Much of the market's strength again came from the technology sector. The Nasdaq composite index held onto its modest gains on the strength of Internet companies such as Amazon.com and software makers such as Oracle. Amazon.com gained 2-15/16, to 97, and Oracle rose 5 5/8, to 96-5/16, after announcing a 2-for-1 stock split.