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INVESTORS READY FOR EARNINGS

Associated Press

NEW YORK - Stocks closed mixed Monday as investors grew more cautious while they waited for the start of second-quarter earnings reports. They got some good news after trading ended, when Alcoa Inc. reported better-than-expected results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18 points, and the other big indexes also had slight gains. But almost two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, a sign that investors were wary about earnings.

Insurance broker Aon Corp. said it will buy human resources company Hewitt Associates for $4.9 billion in cash and stock, and Playboy Enterprises Inc. founder Hugh Hefner offered to take the media company private.

Also, Avon Products Inc. agreed to buy Silpada Designs for $650 million in a bid to expand its jewelry business.

Investors generally see an increase in acquisitions as a sign that companies are confident and willing to spend cash to expand.

Earnings are likely to dominate trading for the next few weeks. Investors are seeking insight into the state of the economy not only from how well companies fared during the April-June period, but also from their forecasts for the coming quarters.

Greg Estes, fund manager at Intrepid Capital Funds in Jacksonville Beach, said of companies' forecasts: "People are really wanting to see things get better."

He said some industries like technology were more likely to report improvement than those that rely more on consumer spending.

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