U.S. Stocks Inch Higher In Noon Trading, Day After Sell-Off

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes are edging higher in noon trading, a day after a sell-off prompted by worries about higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar. The euro fell to its lowest level in 12 years.


KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,696 as of 12:09 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,046. The Nasdaq composite rose two points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,862.

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EURO SLIDE: The euro fell to $1.0580, its lowest level since April 2003. The euro has been greatly affected by the prospect of higher U.S. rates. That's because the European Central Bank is trying to lower rates at the same time rates are poised to rise in the U.S. On Monday, the ECB started buying European government bonds to stimulate the economy of the 19-country eurozone, several months after the U.S. Federal Reserve ended its own bond-buying program.

         "The next target sits at $1.0500, the March 2003 lows, and it remains a very short hop from there to parity," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

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EUROPEAN STOCK SURGE: In Europe, Germany's DAX jumped 2.5 percent while the CAC-40 in France rose 2.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent.


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ANALYST'S TAKE: "Bargain-hunters appear to be out in force," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG. "Yesterday's triple-digit falls seen in European equity markets appear to have been quickly forgotten."


FED FEARS: On Tuesday, stocks in Europe and the U.S. were battered as investors worried about the prospect of the Federal Reserve's first interest rate rise in nine years. Those odds appeared to increase after the U.S. government reported a burst in hiring last month. Low interest rates and other monetary stimulus have helped the S&P 500 triple in price since the bull market began six years ago.


APPLE OUTAGE: Apple fell $1.23, or 1 percent, to $123.24 after its iTunes and app stores suffered outages for all users early Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Apple announced new details about its Apple Watch and MacBook products.


EXPRESS JUMPS: Clothing retailer Express rose 33 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $15.28 after reporting fourth-quarter results that exceeded Wall Street expectations.


FLYING HIGH: Southwest Airlines rose 97 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $43.91. The airline said its flights were more crowded and a key revenue figure increased in February compared with a year earlier.


HANDBAG TROUBLE: Vera Bradley, a handbag and accessories company, plunged $2.92, or 16 percent, to $15.15. The company reported fourth-quarter results below analysts' estimates. Its updated outlook for the fiscal 2016 also disappointed.


CHINA FOCUS: Industrial output in the world's second-biggest economy rose 6.8 percent in the first two months of the year, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The number was less than analysts expected. Retail sales and fixed-asset investment also disappointed.

         China's economy is expected to slow further after growing 7.4 percent last year, the lowest growth rate in nearly a quarter-century.


ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.3 percent. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.8 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China swung between gains and losses before edging up 0.2 percent.


ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 55 cents to $47.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 41 cents to $57.28 in London.


BONDS: U.S. government bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 2.13 percent.

         – by AP Reporter Bernard Condon



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