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US stocks traded bumpy early Tuesday after aluminum giant Alcoa kicked off the first quarter earnings season with mixed numbers that failed to spark great optimism.
After swinging back and forth over the break-even line, an hour into trade the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 19.97 points (0.14 percent) to 14,633.45.
The broad-based S&P 500 added 2.37 (0.15 percent) to 1,565.44, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 7.04 points (0.22 percent) to 3,229.29.
Analysts said the market had some support from official data from Beijing showing China's inflation rate had slowed faster than expected. That could allow the central Bank of China to keep monetary policy loose to spur growth.
"All else equal, the more growth there can be in China, the more demand there will ultimately be for basic materials," said Briefing.com's Patrick O'Hare.
Alcoa, the first major US company to report first quarter earnings, bested profit expectations, but fell short of revenue forecasts.
Profits came in at $149 million, up from $94 million in the same period last year. However, sequential profits were down from $242 million in the prior quarter.
The market appeared unsure of what to make of the report. Alcoa was 0.5 percent lower in choppy trading.
Struggling department store chain J.C. Penney sank 12.0 percent after replacing controversial chief executive Ron Johnson with Johnson's predecessor, Myron Ullman.
Starwood Property Trust gave up 2.9 percent after announcing a plan to issue 26.5 million shares to raise funds for investment in commercial mortgage assets.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady from late Monday at 1.73 percent, while the 30-year bond edged higher to 2.91 percent from 2.90 percent. Bond prices move inversely to yields.