EARNINGS LOOM: Stocks made modest gains as investors waited for the first quarter earnings period to start. Alcoa, the first member of the Dow Jones industrial average to release results, reported a larger first-quarter profit than analysts expected.

ALTERNATING: Stocks are struggling for direction after logging a strong start to the year. The Dow has not had two consecutive up or down days since March 20, the longest such streak in nearly 15 years.

LUFKIN BID: Lufkin Industries, an oilfield equipment maker, surged 38 percent to $87.96 after the company agreed to be bought by General Electric for $3 billion. GE wants to bolster its oil and gas operations.

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