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US stocks rise as Home Depot boosts Dow average

Daniel Wagner, AP Business Writer

FILE - In this Sunday Nov. 11, 2012, file photo, supporters from the Independent Greeks party hold Greek flags as Presidential guards performs the changing of the guards ceremony outside the Greek parliament during an anti- austerity rally in central Athens. Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, as a deal to rescue the Greek economy now looks much less certain than it had just one day ago. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday morning after a sluggish start. A surge in Home Depot's stock lifted the Dow Jones industrial average.

Stocks had opened lower after European leaders postponed the latest aid package for Greece. The Dow turned positive in the first hour of trading and continued to rise through the morning.

The Dow was up 66 points at 12,881 as of 11:15 a.m. Eastern time. About a third of the gain was attributable to Home Depot, which soared 4 percent after delivering a strong earnings report that beat analysts' expectations. Home Depot added $2.65 to $63.81.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose seven points to 1,387. The Nasdaq composite index rose two to 2,905.

European stock markets had been lower for much of the day but rose after the market opened in New York. Benchmark indexes in France the U.K. and Germany were trading modestly higher.

Traders there are concerned because finance ministers postponed $40 billion in desperately needed aid for Greece. The news surprised investors. A day earlier, there was word that leaders had prepared a "positive" report on Greece, making it appear likely that the aid would be released.

U.S. investors are trading against the backdrop of the "fiscal cliff," a set of government spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect automatically at the beginning of next year unless the White House and a divided Congress can reach a compromise before then.

Worries about the fiscal cliff pushed U.S. stocks to one of their worst weekly losses of the year last week after voters re-elected President Barack Obama and a deeply divided Congress. Obama was set to meet Tuesday with labor leaders and others who advocate higher taxes on the wealthy and want to protect health benefits for seniors and other government programs. Obama will meet with business leaders Wednesday.

Until the U.S. government's fiscal issues are resolved, traders can expect many more days of indecisive trading and volatility, said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group.

"It's a little bit like Groundhog Day," Colas said, referring to the classic Bill Murray movie in which the protagonist must relive the same day over and over. Until there is decisive news from Washington, something he doesn't expect for weeks, markets will remain vulnerable to headlines from Europe and the U.S. that mean little in the long run, Colas said.

The next major catalyst for a market move, Colas said, will be gauges of spending by consumers on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Greece's neighbors decided to give the country two more years to meet its economic targets. They still disagree with the International Monetary Fund, another key lender, over how to manage the country's debt over the long term. Until lenders reach an accord, they can't release the billions that Greece needs to make upcoming payments.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said Greece should reduce its debt burden down to 120 percent of its economic output by 2020, the original target of 2020. But Jean-Claude Juncker, leader of the euro zone's finance ministers, said that the deadline would likely be changed to 2022. The lenders will meet again on Nov. 20.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slid to 1.61 percent from 1.64 percent late Friday as demand increased for ultra-safe investments. The U.S. bond market was closed on Monday in observance of the Veterans Day holiday.

Among stocks making big moves:

Microsoft plunged 4 percent after it announced the departure of Steven Sinofsky, who ran its Windows division. The unexpected move comes just weeks after Microsoft launched Windows 8, its first major overhaul in years of the operating system used on most of the world's computers. Microsoft fell $1.09 to $27.13.

Weatherford International plunged 15 percent a day after the oilfield services company reported disappointing third-quarter revenue and said it had uncovered "material weakness in internal controls over financial reporting related to the accounting for a percentage of completion contract in Iraq." Weatherford took write-downs in the first and second quarters because of them. Its stock fell $1.59 to $9.29.

Apparel chain operator TJX Cos., the parent of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, rose after raising its full-year earnings forecast and reporting third-quarter revenue that exceeded analysts' expectations. The stock rose 63 cents to $41.60.


Daniel Wagner can be reached at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports .