A selloff in the financial sector Tuesday brought an end to a two-week rally for the insurer Conseco Inc.
The company's stock, which had been climbing since early March, was unchanged at $37.125 after a big gain Monday, when some analysts pegged it as a potential takeover target for the Dutch insurer ING Group NV.
Conseco officials refused to comment on merger rumors, and some analysts said they thought a deal unlikely.
Chief executive Steve Hilbert "has publicly said that the best strategy is for him to run the business better," said Oppenheimer analyst Eric Berg.
Also arguing against a takeover of the Carmel, Ind., company is its poison pill. According to Conseco's proxy statement, Mr. Hilbert and four other top executives can opt to receive five years of salary, bonus, and other benefits if the company changes hands. Mr. Hilbert's portion alone could add more than $75 million to any purchase price.
Stock trading was trendless in the broader markets, but financial issues were weak. The Dow Jones industrial average briefly crossed the 10,000 threshold in morning trading. It closed down 28, at 9,930. The Standard & Poor's bank index closed down 14.67, at 695.05.
"We continue to be very skeptical about this stock market rally," said banking analyst Raphael Soifer of Brown Brothers Harriman, who projects a correction before the end of the year.
Tuesday's selloff, though, was "really more technical than anything else," Mr. Soifer said. "Bank stocks are giving up some of the gain they made before."
Though the nearly universal selloff Tuesday in financial services stocks was not prompted by particular economic factors, several individual bank stocks were hit with bad news.
Shares of Mercantile Bancorp. of St. Louis closed down $1.3125, at $50.8125, following a downgrade by Bear Stearns analyst Sean Ryan. Mercantile stock has "run up 16% in the past two weeks on takeover speculation," said Mr. Ryan, who lowered the stock from "buy" to "attractive."
"From the record it closed at Monday night, there is limited upside in the event of a takeover," Mr. Ryan explained.
Gainers included Hibernia Corp., up 87.5 cents, at $14.875.