Stocks Open Higher

A tame CPI reading for January tempered Tuesday's inflationary worries, while oil remains above $50

Stocks opened higher Wednesday, after a lower-than-expected reading on a gauge of inflation at the consumer level gave hope for a rebound from Tuesday's plunge.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.87 points, or 0.37%, to 10,650.07. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index went up 4.45 points, or 0.38%, to 1,188.61. The Nasdaq composite index rose 5.66 points, or 0.28%, to 2,035.98.

Crude oil futures were 36 cents lower Wednesday after Tuesday's upshoot. Oil traded at $51.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. January consumer price index (CPI) rose only 0.1%, after a 0.1% decline in December. Median estimates expected a gain of 0.2%. While this relieves some inflation worries, the economy is still facing inflation pressure that should remain in place for at least the first half of 2005, says Action Economics.

More economic reports are due later in the week. On Thursday, figures on January's durable goods orders are expected to show a 0.1% increase, after a 1.1% rise in December. On Friday, the preliminary reading of fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise 3.5%, up from the original estimate of 3.1%.

In earnings news Wednesday, Novell (NOVL ) announced first-quarter earnings of 90 cents, vs. 3 cents last year. The computer networking company posted 8.6% higher total revenues, but profits were flat after discounting money made from a legal settlement with Microsoft (MSFT ).

Home-improvement chain Lowe's (LOW ) posted fourth-quarter earnings of 64 cents, vs. 49 cents last year. Lowe's saw 6.9% higher same-store sales, and beat analysts' profit estimates.

Footwear marketer Skechers U.S.A. (SKX ) saw 18% higher total sales in the fourth quarter, posting earnings of 5 cents a share, vs. a 33 cent loss last year.

Up ahead, apparel retailer Gap (GPS ) and entertainment group Viacom (VIA ) will both announce earnings after the close Thursday. Broadcaster Clear Channel Communications (CCU ) on Friday.

Treasury Market

Treasuries prices rose, and yields retreated, after the tame CPI report. The yield on the 10-year note fell to 4.24%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished lower Tuesday after recovering from session lows. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 fell 50.95 points, or 1.01%, to 4,981.90.

Germany's DAX index fell 24.43 points, or 0.57%, to 4,298.78.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 35.78 points, or 0.89%, to 3,966.55.

Asian markets closed lower Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei-225 index fell 97.53 points, or 0.84%, to close at 11,500.18. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dropped 132.58 points, or 0.94%, to 13,957.94.

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