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After another seesaw day, stocks close slightly up amid recession, debt fears

Monday was another day of big swings in the Dow Jones industrial average, but at least it ended with a modest gain.

The Dow soared 200 points in the morning, an encouraging start after four weeks of losses. By noon that gain shriveled to just 2 points, followed by a rise of another 100 in the afternoon. At the end of the day, the Dow closed up 37 points.

Compared with the even wilder fluctuations over the past two weeks, Monday's trading looked relatively calm.

The Dow has gained or lost at least 200 points eight days this month, including a 419-point plunge last Thursday. A flare-up of Europe's debt crisis and fears of a new U.S. recession have shaken investors, taking the Dow down 15 percent in one month.

Hewlett-Packard Co. rose 3.6 percent, the most of the 30 large companies in the Dow Jones industrial average. HP had dropped 20 percent Friday after saying it planned to sell its personal computer business and stop selling other products.

Bank stocks, which have been clobbered over worries about Europe's debt crisis, took another hit.

Bank of America lost 7.9 percent, the biggest drop among the 30 Dow companies. Analysts at Wells Fargo cut their price target on the stock, citing fears that the U.S. could slip back into a recession.

Among non-Dow stocks, Goldman Sachs slumped 4.7 percent to the lowest level since March 2009 following a report, confirmed after hours, that Lloyd Blankfein, its CEO, and others had hired defense attorneys in a federal probe.

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor's equity research, cautioned against reading too much into the market's early jump Monday. "A two-hour rally isn't enough to change the trend," Stovall said. "It's natural in a declining market to have some days that run counter to the overall trend."

The S&P 500 index has fallen16 percent since July 22 and 13 percent this month, putting the broad market measure on course for its worst August since 1998. After falling four weeks in a row, some stocks are appearing too cheap for investors to pass up, Stovall said.

With its increase of 37 points, or 0.3 percent, the Dow closed at 10,854.65.

The S&P 500 rose 0.29 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,123.82. It had been up as many as 22 points. The Nasdaq rose 3.54 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,345.38.

Stocks have fallen for four weeks on signs that the U.S. economy is slowing.

Gold jumped $39.70, or 2 percent, to $1,892. Gold has gained 16 percent so far in August. It reached $1,900 in after-hours trading.

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