Stocks inch higher as Greek talks drag on

CHRISTINA REXRODE AP Business Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks inched higher early Wednesday as traders wait for European leaders to hammer out a bailout deal for Greece.

The Dow was up 8 points to 12,886 in the first half-hour of trading. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3 points to 1,350. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 to 2,914.

Greece is in danger of defaulting on its debt next month if leaders can't agree on new cost-cutting measures that the country's lenders are demanding. A host of deadlines have already passed without agreement, but the prevailing view on the markets is that a deal will be secured soon.

The talks were delayed three days to make time for exhaustive negotiations with representatives of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Several companies reported strong earnings, sending their stocks higher. High-end clothing company Ralph Lauren jumped 13 percent, and Whole Foods rose 2 percent, another sign that wealthy shoppers are continuing to spend even as the overall economy continues to struggle.

Sprint Nextel Corp. plummeted 7 percent after the phone company reported a fourth-quarter loss. While Sprint added subscribers, it had to pay dearly for them. Sprint started offering customers iPhones, but it had to subsidize the cost so customers could buy them for as little as $99.