US stocks struggle for direction

CHRISTINA REXRODE AP Business Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks struggled for direction early Monday as investors waited for finishing touches on a bailout plan for Greece. China, the superpower that has pushed the world economy forward even as other countries flagged, also announced that its growth had slowed at the end of last year.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 41 points shortly after the opening bell but gave up about half of those gains. It was up 18 points at 12,939 after the first half-hour of trading.

The Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq composite wavered between small gains and losses in early trading. At about 10 a.m., the S&P 500 was down 2 points to 1,369 and the Nasdaq composite was down 4 points to 2,984.

Investors are waiting for more news about a plan to help Greece avoid bankruptcy later this month. Finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro are meeting to try to hammer out more details of the bailout, and a top leader from the European Central Bank said that the euro countries will probably suffer a "very mild recession" this year.

Last week Greece had to scramble to persuade investors to take losses on their holdings, which could help Greece work out its financial problems for the short term but could also discourage investors from investing money in the country going forward.

Markets in Europe were mixed. Germany's DAX rose but other European stock indexes fell. Greece fell the most, down 1.5 percent.

China's economy was also showing cracks. The country's premier lowered China's target rate for economic growth.

Gas prices continue to weigh down hopes about the state of the U.S. recovery. The average price for a gallon of gasoline was $3.80, up from $3.56 a year ago.

Companies making big moves included:

-- Defibrillator maker Zoll Medical Corp. jumped 24 percent to $92.76 after its board agreed to a buyout offer of $93 per share from Japan's Asahi Kasei Corp.

-- Mattress maker Sealy Corp. climbed 4 percent after its second-largest shareholder asked the company to shuffle its board and blamed the largest shareholder, private equity firm KKR & Co.