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Stocks edge higher amid caution over G20 summit

by Stephen Bernard
| November 11, 2010 8:00 PM

NEW YORK - Stocks posted meager gains Wednesday as traders remained cautious ahead of a global economic summit where the U.S. is likely to face pushback from other nations over its economic stimulus plan.

Major indexes were down for much of the day but managed to edge higher by late afternoon. A report showing a sharp decline in first-time claims for unemployment benefits helped support stock prices. A jump in oil prices lifted shares of energy companies including Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

An announcement from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York detailing the Fed's plans for its upcoming bond-purchasing program helped bring stock indexes somewhat higher in the mid-afternoon. The Fed's program, announced last week, is aimed at encouraging borrowing and spending by keeping interest rates low.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10.29, or 0.1 percent, to close at 11,357.04. The Dow had been down as many as 92 points earlier in the day.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 5.31, or 0.4 percent, to 1,218.71, and the Nasdaq composite rose 15.80, or 0.6 percent, to 2,578.78.

Stocks were held in check for most of the day ahead of a summit of world leaders coming up Thursday and Friday in South Korea. The plans by the Federal Reserve to push interest rates lower has brought protests from Germany, China and other countries. They say the U.S. is trying to lower the value of the dollar, which would give an advantage to U.S. exports in global markets at the expense of those from other nations.

Uri Landesman, president at Platinum Partners, said Wednesday's pause on Wall Street is natural for a market that has been climbing nearly unchecked since early September. Major indexes have all touched highs for the year in recent days.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged down to 2.65 percent from 2.66 percent late Tuesday. Oil rose $1.09 to $87.81 a barrel, and gold edged down to just below $1,400 an ounce.

In corporate news, General Motors Corp. said it earned $2 billion in the third quarter. The big profit came at the right time for the automaker. It is set for an initial public offering next week after struggling through bankruptcy and a government bailout. Shares of rival Ford Motor Co. rose 3.5 percent following the strong earnings report from GM.

European indexes slid as worries grow about debt problems in Ireland. The FTSE 100 fell 1 percent, Germany's DAX index dropped 1 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 1.5 percent.

The euro briefly fell below $1.37 for the first time in three weeks. Concerns about mounting government debt in many European countries have been pressuring global stock markets throughout the year.

Gaining shares outnumbered falling ones three to two on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 4.7 billion shares.

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