Stocks mixed amid reforms, earnings

NEW YORK -- The stock market ended narrowly mixed Monday after a strong earnings report from Caterpillar Inc. overshadowed questions about financial regulation. Banking shares fell as discussion pushing financial overhaul legislation continued in Washington.

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, which is viewed as an economic bellwether, reported earnings that beat expectations. The company also said economic conditions are "definitely improving" and that orders are significantly higher than last year.

Investors were still being cautious, however. A series of upbeat earnings reports have sent stocks steadily higher over the past week, and many analysts believe that strong corporate earnings results are already priced into the market.

Treasury to unload some of Citi's stock

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department said Monday that it plans to sell up to 1.5 billion shares of Citigroup stock, its latest move to unwind the support it provided big banks during the financial crisis.

The exact timing of the sales, which amount to about 20 percent of the government's ownership stake, was not disclosed.

The government received about 7.7 billion shares, or a 27 percent ownership stake, as compensation for the massive support it extended to the bank in late 2008. Treasury said last month that it would soon begin selling the stock and planned to complete the sales this year.

The sales should earn a tidy profit for the government, which purchased the common stock in mid-2009 for $3.25 each. The shares fell 25 cents to $4.61 Monday.

Whirlpool reports strong profit, sales

NEW YORK -- Federal rebates for energy-efficient appliances pulled shoppers back into stores, helping Whirlpool's revenue rise and its first-quarter profit more than double. The world's largest appliance maker's also raised its profit forecast above analysts' estimates.

In the quarter ended March 31, Whirlpool earned $164 million, a 141 percent increase over the same period of 2009. The company said revenue rose 20 percent to $4.27 billion.

Whirlpool, which sells Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and its namesake brand, declined to say how much the federal stimulus program boosted quarterly sales. Whirlpool said the volume increase does not indicate a rebound in housing construction. Analyst Brian Sozzi of Wall Street Strategies said consumers were buying replacement items.

Wal-Mart pay case to proceed to trial

SAN FRANCISCO -- A sharply divided federal appeals court on Monday exposed Wal-Mart Stores to billions of dollars in legal damages when it ruled a massive class action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination over pay for female workers can go to trial.

In its 6-5 ruling, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the world's largest private employer will have to face charges that it pays women less than men for the same jobs and that female employees receive fewer promotions and have to wait longer for those promotions.

The retailer has fought the lawsuit since it was first filed by six women in 2001. Its top lawyer Jeff Gearhart said the company was considering its next step, which could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.