US stocks open mixed; strong factory orders report

DANIEL WAGNER AP Business Writer Published:

Stock opened mixed on Wednesday after the government said factory orders rose strongly last month, a sign that businesses continue to invest.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up two points at 13,199 as of 10:05 a.m. Eastern time. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell a fraction of a point to 1,412. The Nasdaq composite index, heavy with technology stocks, rose seven points to 3,127.

The Commerce Department said before the market opening that orders for durable goods, things expected to last at least three years, rose 2.2 percent in February. Orders for machinery, computers, autos and aircraft fueled the rise.

The solid report on factory orders relieved fears that demand might fall sharply because a key tax break expired. Businesses last year could deduct the cost of their investments from taxable profits before calculating their tax bills. That tax benefit has been halved since January.

The positive economic news reduced demand for U.S. Treasury debt. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.21 percent from 2.19 percent before the report. As stocks opened mixed, demand for Treasurys rose and the yield fell back to 2.20 percent.

The encouraging report on orders for durable goods came a day after an index of consumer confidence suggested Americans' spirits are resilient despite skyrocketing gasoline costs.

Energy prices, another concern for economic policymakers, might be moving in a direction that would encourage growth. Futures for crude, natural gas, heating oil and gasoline all fell early Wednesday, with gasoline leading the way.

Oil prices fell to near $105 a barrel Wednesday after a report suggesting a larger-than-expected jump in U.S. crude supplies, a sign that demand remains weak.

The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories rose 3.6 million barrels last week. That is a bigger jump than was predicted by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. Platts expects an increase of 2.8 million barrels.

If consumers get a break on what they have to pay for energy, that could provide a bump for the U.S. economy.

In corporate news:

-- Shares of organic food maker Annie's soared in the first 20 minutes of their trading debut on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, based in Berkeley, Calif., priced its shares at $19 late Tuesday. They were up 66 percent at $31.32 at 10 a.m.

-- Shares of Sealy Corp. rose 2 percent after the mattress maker reported a surprise profit in the first quarter of 1 cent per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected a loss of 2 cents per share.

-- Clothing brand powerhouse PVH Corp. rose 2 percent after its fourth-quarter profit jumped on gains from its Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands.

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Daniel Wagner can be reached at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports .