Stock Market News Today: Dow Nears 15,000

Saks reported an earnings miss, making the faltering retail sector a headline in stock market news today.

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Perhaps lower summer trading volumes are leaving stocks more vulnerable to larger moves lately...

The stock market today fell 70 points to 15,010; the S&P lost nearly 10 points; the Nasdaq fell 12. This marks the Dow's fourth straight day of losses - the first four-day losing streak of 2013. 

The stock market suffered several days of losses last week on the back of disappointing economic reports and downbeat outlooks from major retailers Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). The S&P 500 lost 2.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.2% and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) lost 1.6%. 

Cisco and Wal-Mart reported earnings that missed Street estimates while describing a gloomy retail environment in their reduced guidance, which also disappointed investors. Cisco said it's cutting 4,000 jobs in a "challenging" and "inconsistent" retail environment.

Besides reduced volume, investors are still trying to sort out the timing of the Fed's inevitable QE tapering of its bond-buying program, so they are scrutinizing each economic indicator.

Stock market news this week points to several stocks to watch in earnings, mergers and acquisitions.

Stock Market News Today: Earnings

Earnings season has wound down, but a few major companies are reporting earnings in the week ahead, including tell-tale retailers The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) and Lowe's Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW).  These earnings should reveal whether consumer spending has weakened in apparel but not housing, or whether the entire retail industry is struggling with less consumer spending.

Already today, Saks (NYSE: SKS) missed estimates with its Q2 ESP. Saks reported an $0.08 per share loss, which is $0.10 off from estimates.  Net sales were $707.8 million, below the $732.5 million analysts expected.

Other stocks to watch in earnings today include Aegean Marien Petroleum (NYSE: ANW) and Greenway Medical Technologies (NYSE: GWAY). Both companies are expected to report earnings after the closing bell today.

Stock Market News Today: Mergers & Acquisitions

Zillow Inc. (Nasdaq: Z), down about 7% today, is among the stocks to watch in mergers and acquisitions this week.

The Seattle-based company says it will buy StreetEasy, a real estate website in New York City, for $50 million. Zillow also said today that it will hold an underwritten public offering of 2,500,000 shares of its Class A common stock pursuant to an effective shelf registration statement.

And St. Jude Medical (NYSE: STJ) has acquired Endosense, a Swiss-based firm, for an initial $170 million with up to $161 million in milestone payments.  Endosense develops TactiCath, which lets physicians monitor the force of catheters on heart walls.

Finally, Statoil ASA (NYSE: STO) has agreed to sell to OMV AG its stakes in oil and gas fields in Norway and the U.K. for $2.65 billion. The purchase price is subject to customary adjustments for the year 2013, and is expected to increase by around $500 million.

More Stocks in the News This Week

With sparks of controversy stemming from major activist investors, J.C. Penney Company Inc. (NYSE: JCP) and Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) are also among the stocks to watch in the week ahead.

Dell shares, down slightly in morning trading today, closed up about 1% Friday. That bucked the overall downturn in stocks after a Delaware court refused to fast-track billionaire investor Carl Icahn's lawsuit against founder Michael Dell's buyout proposal, which will go before shareholders vote on Sept. 12.

And J.C. Penney shares, down about 1% for the day, are still trading near a 52-week low, closing down 3% Friday at $13.40.

What all market watchers have to know: The Most Important Number to Watch This Week