Stocks edged higher early Wednesday on signs that U.S. manufacturing is growing and inflation remains under control.
The Federal Reserve said U.S. factory output rose for the fifth straight month in November. A separate report showed that consumer prices hardly moved. The Labor Department's Consumer Price Index rose just 0.1 percent in November, slightly below what economists expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 29 points, or 0.26 percent, to 11,506.02. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.5, or 0.12 percent, to 1,243.09. The Nasdaq composite index rose 9.8, or 0.37 percent, to 2,637.53.
Treasury prices headed higher after a steep fall the day before. The yield on the 10-year note moved down to 3.41 percent from 3.45 percent. The yield on the 10-year note helps set interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans. Bond prices and their yields move in opposite directions.
In corporate news, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG said it was getting closer to buying the remaining shares of eye care company Alcon Inc. that it doesn't already own. Shares in Alcon rose 1.7 percent to $165.19. Novartis rose 6.4 percent to $59.41.
The Dow closed at its highest level of the year Tuesday after reports on retail sales, business inventories and sentiment among corporate leaders all suggested that the economy was improving.
European markets were mixed after the rating agency Moody's warned that it may lower Spain's credit rating. There were nationwide protests in Greece and a general strike against the government's latest austerity measures.