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US: Stocks mostly lower; McDonald's unveils China deal

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks were mostly lower early Monday following a spate of merger and acquisition announcements, including a big McDonald's divestment in China. analyst Patrick O'Hare said the market felt "heavy" after the Dow narrowly missed hitting 20,000 points on Friday. He cited uncertainty about the upcoming earnings season and worries about the strong dollar as constraints.

"There is a lot swirling in the air, then, which is contributing to a somewhat cautious tone to begin the week, not the least of which is the nagging consideration that the stock market is seemingly due for a period of consolidation," O'Hare said.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 19,902.83, down 0.3 per cent.

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The broad-based S&P 500 also lost 0.3 per cent at 2,271.03, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.1 per cent to 5,527.01.

McDonald's advanced 0.2 per cent after announcing it was selling a controlling stake in its China and Hong Kong business for up to US$2.1 billion to a consortium including state-owned Citic and the Carlyle Group.

The move is part of the fast-food giant's efforts to shake up its international operations to compensate for sluggish sales in the US.

Veterinary and pet-care company VCA surged 28.3 per cent after it announced a deal to be acquired by privately-held Mars for US$9.1 billion.

Hospital company Surgical Care Affiliates jumped 16.1 per cent on news it will be acquired by UnitedHealth Group for US$2.3 billion. UnitedHealth shed 0.9 per cent.