Stocks gain after reports on economy, Ukraine

STEVE ROTHWELL AP Markets Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market opened higher Tuesday after some encouraging news on the economy and signs that Russia is seeking to ease tensions with the West on Ukraine.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,865 as of 10:06 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,310. The Nasdaq composite climbed 21 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,301.

UKRAINE CRISIS: In a speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Russian Parliament not to believe those who say that Russia will look to take over other areas of Ukraine. On Sunday, a majority of voters in Ukraine's region of Crimea voted to break from that country and join Russia.

BOUNCE BACK: The stock market is recovering this week after logging its biggest weekly drop in almost two months. The S&P 500 has gained 1.4 percent so far this week, after dropping almost 2 percent last week on concerns about slowing growth in China and tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

HOUSING: Home builders rose after the Commerce Department said that applications for building permits reached their highest level in four months. Beazer Homes USA rose 45 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $20.50 and Ryland Group rose 62 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $40.77.

PRICE WATCH: The government reported that cheaper oil and gas prices kept U.S. consumer prices in check last month, despite a big rise in the cost of food. It was the latest sign of weak inflation. The Labor Department says the consumer price index increased 0.1 percent in February. In the past 12 months, prices have risen just 1.1 percent, down from 1.6 percent in January and the smallest in five months.

FED MEETING: The Federal Reserve will start its second meeting of the year on Tuesday. The meeting will end Wednesday and will be followed by an early afternoon press conference by Fed Chair Janet Chairman. Most analysts expect the Fed to continue to reduce its economic stimulus by cutting back on its bond purchases.

GAME STOPPED: GameStop fell $2.02, or 5.1 percent, to $37.90 after Wal-Mart said it plans to expand its video game trade-in program to its stores. The world's largest retailer plans to let video game owners trade in used video games online and in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores for store credit but not cash. Previously they offered trade-ins on a more limited basis online.

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