* VIX hits highest level in a week
* S&P 500 falls 0.8 pct in April
* Sunoco to be acquired; shares jump 20 pct
* Indexes off: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.7 pct
By Edward Krudy
NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 posted its first
monthly decline since November on Monday, as stocks slipped on
signs the U.S. economy may be slowing and as a recession in
Spain highlighted risks in the euro zone.
Despite Monday's decline, the picture was not overwhelmingly
negative. The S&P closed out April with a decline of 0.8
percent, after four straight days of gains last week helped the
index pare much steeper losses for the month.
Still, a recent string of economic data suggests the economy
may slow in the summer months and has caused the market to stall
just shy of the four-year highs reached earlier in the month. A
much sharper-than-expected decline in Midwestern business
activity in April reported on Monday by an industry group was
the latest evidence of a slowdown.
"We had such a strong first quarter, and we've lost that
momentum in the last two weeks," said Jake Dollarhide, chief
executive at Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The
data "reinforces the ominous tone on Wall Street, along with the
fears we have about Europe."
Composite trading volume was among the lightest of the year
at 6.1 billion on Monday compared with a daily average of this
year of around 6.8 billion. The CBOE volatility index, or
VIX, climbed 5.1 percent, after earlier hitting its highest
level in more than a week.
Spain on Monday reported its economy contracted in the first
quarter, dragging the country into recession as deep government
spending cuts to reduce a massive deficit and troubles in the
banking sector likely delayed any return to growth. Though
expected, the news highlighted the serious headwinds the world
Banks were among the top decliners on Wall Street after
Standard & Poor's cut the credit ratings of 11 Spanish banks on
Monday, following its downgrade of Spain last week.
The S&P 500 financial sector index fell 0.6 percent
while Bank of America Corp dropped 1.7 percent to $8.11.
Shares of Spanish bank Santander traded in New York fell
2.2 percent to $6.33 and are down 16 percent this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 14.68
points, or 0.11 percent, to 13,213.63. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index fell 5.45 points, or 0.39 percent, to 1,397.91. The
Nasdaq Composite Index lost 22.84 points, or 0.74
percent, to 3,046.36.
The S&P 500's 0.8 percent decline for April was a comeback
from earlier in the month when worries over Europe and the U.S.
economy sent it down more than 4 percent for the month.
Many investors are still worried about the potential for a
pullback heading into the seasonally weak period for stocks that
starts in May, especially if it is accompanied by a slowing
economy and more problems in Europe.
"In equities, we stepped back to neutral several weeks ago,"
said Goldman Sachs in a research note. "Our general view is that
the U.S. seems to be slowing - though how much and for how long
is an open question - while equity market domestic growth views
Defensive sectors were the best performers in April. The
telecom sector rose 3.6 percent for the month, while
financials fell 1.9 percent.
Shares of Monster Beverage Corp jumped as much as
28 percent on Monday after The Wall Street Journal reported
Coca-Cola Co is in talks to buy the energy drink maker,
but the shares closed 0.8 percent lower after a denial from
In earnings news, Humana Inc declined 8.1 percent to
$80.68 after the company, one of the largest providers of
Medicare insurance for the elderly, posted a 21 percent drop in
profit. The Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index
declined 1.9 percent.
Exchange operator NYSE Euronext reported its
quarterly profit fell by almost one-third due to a difficult
trading environment and costs from its failed merger with
Deutsche Boerse. Its shares fell 4.9 percent to
According to Thomson Reuters data through Monday morning, of
the 297 S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly results
so far, 72 percent topped estimates. A strong earnings season
helped lift the benchmark S&P index to its best week since
mid-March last week.
Shares in Apple gave back some of their
post-earnings pop, falling 3.2 percent to $583.98. Last week the
shares jumped 9 percent after the company blew away Wall Street
On the positive side of Monday's earnings, shares of Sunoco
Inc jumped 20.5 percent to $49.29 after pipeline
operator Energy Transfer Partners LP said it would buy
the company for $5.35 billion in stock and cash.
Barnes & Noble Inc surged 52 percent to $20.75 after
Microsoft Corp agreed to invest $300 million in the
bookseller's digital and college operations. The deal values the
Nook and textbook businesses at $1.7 billion.