US stocks open mixed as investors assess latest inflation data; Freeport drops on dividend cut

Energy Associated Press

U.S. stocks were mixed in early trading Tuesday, as investors assessed the latest news on consumer prices and some company earnings.

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Shares of Freeport-McMoRan fell after the mining company said it said it would slash its quarterly dividend. McCormick, a spice and seasoning company, was the biggest gainer in early trading after reporting better-than-expected earnings and revenue.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,102 as of 9:55 am. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 25 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,088. The Nasdaq composite rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,015.

CONSUMER PRICES: A modest rebound in gas costs and broad gains in other categories lifted consumer prices for the first time in four months. The consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in February, the Labor Department said Tuesday, after dropping 0.7 percent the previous month. January's decline was the biggest in six years.

LOWER PAYOUT: Freeport-McMoRan Inc. will cut its quarterly dividend by 84 percent due to falling oil prices, the Phoenix-based mining company said Tuesday. The company's stock dropped 73 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $18.57.

SPICY EARNINGS: McCormick & Co., the spices and seasoning company rose after it reported earnings and revenues that surpassed the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The company said it was planning for a "strong grilling campaign. The stock rose $3.45, or 4.7 percent, to $76.68.

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EUROZONE ON THE UP: Figures for the eurozone suggested that the region's recovery may be gaining momentum. In its monthly survey, financial information company Markit said its purchasing managers' index for the region rose to 54.1 points in March from 53.3 in February. That put the index at its highest level since May 2011.

EUROPE'S DAY: In Europe, France's CAC 40 added 032 percent to 5,071 while Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 11,925. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 7,045.

CHINA WORRIES: China's manufacturing fell to the lowest level in nearly a year as new orders shrank. HSBC's preliminary manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers dropped to an 11-month low of 49.2 in March, from February's 50.7. The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction.

China's economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, its slowest pace in nearly a quarter century, and economists predict growth will slow further this year and the next.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 4 cents to $47.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 49 cents to $55.41 in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed from Monday at 1.91 percent.

The dollar was little changed against the euro and the Japanese yen. Against the euro, the U.S. currency traded at $1.0932 and versus the yen is was at 119.65 yen.