US stocks mixed as Greek bailout talks inch along

Feb 15 2012 - 10:14am

NEW YORK  -- Stocks were mixed on Wall Street as Greece inched closer to a deal to resolve its debt crisis.

The Dow Jones industrial average gave up an early gain and was down 12 points at 12,866 around 10 a.m. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged up 3 points to 1,354. The Nasdaq composite rose 15 to 2,947.

Greece is trying to secure loan extensions and other breaks from its lenders -- notably the other euro zone countries and the International Monetary Fund -- so it won't default on debt obligations due next month. The lenders have demanded that Greece cut back on what it spends on pensions and public-sector jobs and other government services, but implementing those cuts has been difficult in a country that has grown used to generous government spending.

The deal-making has been strained and unpredictable. For months, Greece and its lenders have no sooner hammered out one portion of the debt deal before they find something else to agree on. Incremental developments, such as a nod from China that it would continue to invest in some government bonds, commitments from one or two Greek party leaders that they would agree to the cuts, have sent stocks zigzagging up and down, underscoring how desperate investors will latch on to even the smallest signs of good news.

Tuesday night, a meeting between European finance ministers planned for Wednesday was canceled after Athens failed to deliver on several demands made the previous week. On Wednesday, the head of Greece's Conservative party, Antonis Samaras, sent a letter to the country's international creditors committing to the terms of the second international bailout. That news set off a late-day round of stock buying on Wall Street.

Among the biggest movers:

-- Comcast climbed 5 percent after the cable provider reported profit and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations. Comcast managed to stem the tide of TV customers streaming out the door as it added TV channels and better customer service. Like other cable companies, Comcast is struggling with how to retain customers who are opting to watch video online.

-- Kellogg rose 4 percent after announcing it would buy Procter & Gamble's Pringles business. Diamond Foods had originally inked the deal to buy Pringles, but got caught up in an accounting scandal that forced it to get rid of its top two executives last week.

-- Zynga plummeted 9 percent after the company said it lost money in the fourth quarter and analysts said the company's growth was slowing significantly. The maker of popular Facebook games like Farmville went public in December.

-- Madison Square Garden Co. climbed 2.5 percent, the morning after Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin scored a tie-breaking 3-pointer in the final second of a match against the Toronto Raptors, helping the Knicks rally to a 90-87 win.

 

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