Stocks waver; Wal-Mart slumps as earnings fall

MATTHEW CRAFT AP Business Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks wavered between slight gains and losses in morning trading as investors weighed worries about Italy's financial crisis against an increase in U.S. retail spending. The Dow Jones industrial average fell less than 45 points.

Higher interest rates on government debt issued by Italy, Spain and other European countries rattled stock markets in Europe early Tuesday. The market rate for Italy's 10-year bond jumped back above 7 percent. When rates crossed the 7 percent threshold last week, it raised worries about the country's ability to manage its debts. Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to seek lifelines when their borrowing rates crossed the same mark.

In the U.S., the Commerce Department said early Tuesday that Americans spent more on autos, electronics and building supplies in October, raising retail sales for a fifth straight month. Sales increased 0.5 percent from the previous month, better than forecasts.

The retail sales report helped the U.S. stock market "show a certain degree of resilience in the wake of the negative headlines out of Europe," said Todd Salamone, director of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

The Dow was down 40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,039 as of 11:15 a.m. Eastern. The S&P 500 lost 4, or 0.3 percent, to 1,247. The Nasdaq composite slid 6, or 0.2 percent, to 2,650.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell 2.6 percent after posting a drop in profits. Sales at Staples Inc. fell short of analysts' expectations, and the company also cut its earnings forecast for the year. Its stock dropped 5.5 percent.

Among other companies reporting quarterly results, Home Depot said spending on home projects and storm-related repairs helped lift earnings. The country's largest home-improvement retailer also raised its earnings estimate for the year. The stock gave up early gains of 1 percent was trading 0.5 percent lower. Department store chain Saks Inc. posted stronger sales and rose 2.2 percent. Urban Outfitters Inc. lost 3.2 percent after the company missed Wall Street's revenue forecasts.

Dell Inc. reports quarterly results after the market closes.

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