Markets & Finance

Stocks Post Small Gains


Stocks posted tiny gains on Tuesday on cheery news from drugmaker Pfizer (PFE) but investors avoided big moves ahead of an earnings report from technology bellwether Cisco (CSCO), the world's largest networking gear maker.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 8.67 points, or 0.08%, to 10,724.63. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.58 points, or 0.05%, to 1,202.30. The Nasdaq composite index was up 4.65 points, or 0.05%, to 2,086.69.

After the close of trading Tuesday, Cisco posted higher quarterly profits, thanks to higher sales in advanced technologies and the effect of an accounting change in the previous year.

Looking ahead, Wednesday will bring another batch of earnings releases. On the docket are insurers MetLife (MET), American International Group (AIG) and Cigna (CI).

On the economics front, a report on wholesale inventories in December is expected to show a decline of 0.7% from 1.1% in November.

On Tuesday, Pfizer, the world's No. 1 drug group, said its drug to treat a form of stomach cancer was effective in a late-stage trial.

In earnings news, Marriott (MAR), the biggest U.S. lodging chain, reported profits that topped expectations thanks to higher room rates and occupancy.

McDonald's (MCD) posted 5.2% higher same-store restaurant sales in January while global systemwide sales for its restaurants increased 8.3%.

But stun gun maker Taser (TASR) posted lower-than-expected results.

J.P. Morgan made bullish remarks about the prospects for online auctioneer EBay (EBAY).

In merger news, software giant Microsoft (MSFT) said it would buy anti-virus software maker Sybari Software. Currently, the market is dominated by a Symantec and McAfee.

On the oil front, crude prices fell below the $46 mark on favorable weather projections in the U.S. northeast and reduced supply threats, Informa Global Markets says. Lower oil prices can be supportive for the broader market, but can weigh on the profits of energy outfits such as ExxonMobile (XOM).

Treasury Market

U.S. Treasuries closed mostly higher in price with the yield on the 10-year Treasury falling to 4.03%. The long end outperformed but the 3-year auction was a success, says Informa.

World Markets

European stock markets closed mixed on Tuesday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 15.70 points, or 0.32%, to 4,995.50 as crude oil futures fell. Some traders were encouraged by news that the British Retail Consortium reported retail sales rose by an annual rate of 0.5% in January following a 0.4% decline in December. Rexam was off after UBS cut its rating on the stock to reduce from neutral. Marconi was lower after the company said profitability this year will be at the low end of its forecast.

Germany's DAX index was up 5.04 points, or 0.12%, to 4,371.37 following a report that German industrial production rose 1.2% in December after falling 1.5% in November.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index eased 1.13 points, or 0.03%, moving to 3,990.77. Business Objects was higher after sales results topped expectations.

Asian markets finished mixed on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei average was off 9.43 points, or 0.08%, to close at 11,490.43 after a one-month closing high. But exporters were supported by stronger U.S. dollar and lower oil prices. Toyota Motor and Honda Motor jumped 0.25% and 0.9%, respectively. Nippon Broadcasting System spiked 8.35% after Internet outfit Livedoor (+1.6%) added a 29.6% stake in the radio broadcaster.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 50.63, or 0.37%, to close at 13,845.63.


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