US market indexes drift in early trading as Fed Chair begins remarks; Home Depot jumps

Energy Associated Press

U.S. stocks were drifting between small gains and losses in early trading Tuesday, as investors monitored the latest batch of corporate earnings and economic news. Greek stocks rose after the country's lenders approved reforms Greece needs to get an extension of its financial rescue program.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,151 as of 10:08 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was little changed at 2,110. The Nasdaq composite was down five points, or 0.1 percent, at 4,955.

FED FOCUS: In remarks to Congress, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank remains "patient" in deciding when to start raising interest rates, noting that many Americans remain unemployed, wage growth remains sluggish and inflation is running below the Fed's target. That means a rate increase is unlikely for at least the next two meetings, she said. Yellen's testimony supports the view that a rate increase is not likely before June or even later this year. The Fed has kept its benchmark rate near zero since 2008.

MUCH IMPROVED: Home Depot surged after the home-improvement retailer reported fourth-quarter financial results and a full-year outlook that exceeded Wall Street's expectations. The company also said it has authorized an $18 billion buyback of its shares and boosted its quarterly dividend by 26 percent. The stock added $4.01, or 3.6 percent, to $116.28.

GOOD AND NOT SO GOOD: Macy's reported better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter, but the retailer issued a forecast that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The stock dipped 19 cents to $63.97.

HOME PRICES: A key gauge of U.S. home prices showed that prices rose 4.5 percent in December versus a year earlier. The small gain comes after price increases slowed for 12 straight months. Americans are listing fewer homes for sale, pushing up prices and keeping many houses out of reach for would-be buyers.

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EUROPEAN MARKETS: France's CAC-40 fell 0.1 percent, while Germany's DAX was flat. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.2 percent. The Athens Stock Exchange General Index jumped 10 percent on news that the government submitted a list of reforms aimed at winning final approval for extended rescue loans from the country's creditors. European officials said the list could serve as a basis for discussion about more credit for the struggling country.

ASIA'S DAY: The Nikkei 225 index in Japan closed 0.7 percent higher, while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.4 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent. Markets in mainland China remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 26 cents to $49.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.36 on Monday to $49.45.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.06 percent.

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AP business writers David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, and Kelvin Chan, in Hong Kong contributed to this story.