published Monday, July 2nd, 2012

U.S. stocks mixed in early trading

  • photo
    In this Friday, June 29, 2012 file photo, specialists Frank Masello, left, and John T. O'Hara work on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York shortly before the closing bell. U.S. stock futures are rising tentatively on optimism about recently announced measures in Europe to stave off a debt crisis and hopes that interest rates there will be cut this week, yet gains are being tempered with more evidence of a broader slowdown in China.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks struggled for direction in early trading Monday.

Major stock indexes fell in the opening minutes, and then wavered between small gains and losses.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up two points to 12,882 about 30 minutes into trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose two points to 1,364. The Nasdaq composite index gained five points to 2,940.

It was a tepid response compared to Friday, when the Dow soared 278 points after European leaders announced plans that should make it easier to bail out struggling banks in Spain and Italy. But the plan was short on details, and will be difficult to implement in a continent where many countries have already slipped into recession and others are dangerously close.

Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro is at the highest level since the euro was launched in 1999. France's auditors warned that the country still has a big budget hole to plug. Cyprus prepared to meet with European leaders to discuss its own bailout. The highest court of Germany, whose support is essential because of its deep pockets, announced it would hear arguments from people who want to block the rescue plan.

China's manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in seven months in June, according to a survey released over the weekend.

In general, it was a quiet day for U.S. traders, whose week is shortened by the July 4 holiday on Wednesday although important reports expected later in the week. They'll be watching to see whether the European Central bank cuts interest rates, which would signal that the central bank is concerned about the economy there. Investors will also be watching for the U.S. unemployment report on Friday.

Hospital companies HCA Holdings Inc. and Community Health Systems Inc. both fell slightly, after rising last week when the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul.

Major banks like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all rose at least 1 percent, after falling last week after the British bank Barclays settled accusations over fixing international interest rates.

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