Stocks edge up to end erratic session

NEW YORK -- Stocks ended an erratic session little changed Monday after investors spent the day tracking the euro's moves against the dollar.

A drop and subsequent rebound in the euro steered the Dow Jones industrial average from a loss of 184 points at midday to a gain of almost 6 by the close. But three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Investors are looking at the euro as an indicator of confidence levels in the European economies. The 16-nation currency has been sliding on concerns that debt problems will undermine Europe's recovery, and in turn that of the United States.

Oil prices are off 20% in two weeks

NEW YORK -- Oil prices on Monday fell to their lowest point so far this year and are now down about 20 percent in just two weeks as investors worry about the ripple effects of a debt crisis in Europe.

There is fear in equities and commodities market that economic weakness in Europe could spread to the U.S. and hurt the global recovery. A drop in the euro has hurt the case for investing in oil.

The turnaround in oil prices has been sudden -- crude hit an 18-month high of $87.15 a barrel during trading on May 3. It settled Monday at $70.08 after dipping as low as $69.27.

Lowe's income up as spending rises

NEW YORK -- Lowe's Cos. said shoppers spent more on home improvement projects in the first quarter and opted to buy new big-ticket items such as riding mowers rather than fix them, pushing the retailer's net income up 2.7 percent to $489 million. Revenue rose 4.7 percent to $12.39 billion.

The nation's No. 2 home-improvement chain also said government stimulus programs, including tax credits for home purchases and rebates for energy-efficient products, aided results, as did warmer weather.

U.S. home builders feeling optimistic

LOS ANGELES -- U.S. home builders are growing more optimistic about their fortunes, with many expecting improved sales and customer traffic in coming months despite the end of home-buyer tax incentives.

The National Association of Home Builders said Monday that its housing market index, which tracks industry confidence, rose 3 points this month to 22, the highest reading since August 2007. Readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment. The last time the index was above 50 was in April 2006.

Chrysler government loan partly repaid

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department said Monday that it had received $1.9 billion from Chrysler to settle a $4 billion loan. The department said that while the $1.9 billion repayment is less than the original loan, the amount is still more than Treasury had expected to recover.

The original loan was made on Jan. 2, 2009, by the Bush administration. At the time, the government was scrambling to provide emergency support to both Chrysler and General Motors.

The loan was extended to finance Chrysler LLC, which was later spun off when Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Chrysler Holding, the new parent company, made the repayment Monday.