Markets extend decline as economic fears persist

NEW YORK — Stocks extended their recent losses Monday as investors remained concerned about flagging growth and rising prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 172.65, or 1.29 percent, to 13,167.20. The S&P 500 lost 22.05, or 1.50 percent, to 1,445.90. The Nasdaq composite index fell 61.28, or 2.32 percent, to 2,574.46.

Ingersoll-Rand, Trane ink $10 billion buyout deal

TRENTON, N.J. — Ingersoll-Rand Co. will acquire Trane Inc. in a $10.1 billion deal that would create one of the world's largest air conditioner makers.

The deal would be one of the largest industrial buyouts in recent years. It would give Ingersoll-Rand, which makes Thermo King refrigerated trucks, access to Trane's building and transportation cooling systems.

The combined company is expected to have 2008 revenue of $17 billion, slightly more than double each company's current revenue.

Homebuilders remain gloomy about future

WASHINGTON —U.S. homebuilders' sentiment remained at a record low in December for the third straight month.

The National Association of Home Builders said Monday its housing market index gave a reading of 19 in December, the lowest level since the index began in January 1985.

The index, which gauges builders' perceptions and expectations for sales over the next six months, has declined for eight straight months this year and has been unchanged since October.

Loews Corp. to spin off cigarette maker Lorillard

NEW YORK — Loews Corp., a conglomerate with interests in financial services, hotels and watches, said Monday it plans to spin off cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. as a separate publicly traded company.

Lorillard makes Newport, True and Kent cigarettes. Loews, which is led by the Tisch family, owns CNA Financial Corp., Loews Hotels, Bulova Corp. and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.

BenefitFocus opens new video production studio

BenefitFocus, a specialty software maker based on Daniel Island, unveiled a high-tech media studio at its headquarters on Monday.

The studio features high-fidelity video production equipment to be used to make interactive health broadcasts that will show off the company's health benefits products, a press release says.

The move into video is meant to help consumers and patients understand clinical concepts and manage their health care choices, the company said.