US stocks open higher, steadying after big slump Friday; GM gains on buy-back plan

Markets Associated Press

U.S. stocks opened higher Monday, led by gains for industrial companies and utilities. The market is steadying after a big-sell off on Friday when a strong jobs report boosted expectations that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates this summer.

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GM gained after announcing a $5 billion stock buyback to appease an activist investor.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,074 as of 9:49 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,912 points. The Nasdaq composite was flat at 4,927.

BUYBACK DEAL: General Motors announced that it would buy back $5 billion of its own stock by the end of the year. The move is part of a deal with Harry Wilson, an activist investor and a former member of the government task force that restructured GM coming out of its 2009 bankruptcy. In exchange, Wilson agreed to withdraw his hostile candidacy for the Detroit automaker's board of directors. GM's stock rose 96 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $37.50.

APPLE WATCH: Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to unveil the company's Apple smartwatch and make the case for why it's a must-have gadget at a San Francisco event later Monday. Apple teased the smartwatch in September but has given few details. Apple's stock rose 83 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $127.43.

FED TALK DOMINATES: Stocks slumped on Friday after a Labor Department report showed that the U.S. added 295,000 jobs in February. That ratcheted up expectations that Federal Reserve policy makers will raise interest rates as soon as June. The Fed has held interest rates close to zero for more than six years to stimulate growth following the financial crisis and Great Recession.

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ECB STARTS QE: The European Central Bank started its 60 billion euro ($65 billion) per month bond-buying program on Monday. The bank hopes the purchases will stimulate the eurozone economy and get inflation back to the bank's target of just below 2 percent. At present, consumer prices in the 19-country currency bloc are falling at an annual rate of 0.3 percent.

EUROPE'S DAY: France's CAC-40 fell 0.5 percent while Germany's DAX was flat. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.6 percent lower.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was little changed at $49.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 46 cents to $59.27 per barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.20 percent from 2.25 percent on Friday.

The divergence between the Fed and the ECB's monetary policies has pushed the euro lower against the dollar. After falling to its lowest in 12 years against the dollar on Friday, the euro recovered some ground on Monday, trading at $1.0869. The dollar was flat against the Japanese currency at 120.86 yen.