Stocks Started Up Ahead of Talks on Greek Debt

Stocks started higher on Wednesday, tracking European markets higher ahead of a meeting on Greece’s debt troubles and the release of fresh U.S. economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately added 17.86 points to 11,123.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 2.88 points to 1,175.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 14.60 points to 2,546.75.

Retail sales were steady in August, as consumers spent more on essentials at gas stations and grocery stores but less on cars, according to government data released Wednesday. The Commerce Department said U.S. retail and food services sales in August reached $389.5 billion, with the flat result the lowest growth since May.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core wholesale prices edged up 0.1 percent, the smallest increase in three months. The figures indicate that inflation pressures are easing. The Producer Price Index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, was unchanged in August, the Labor Department said Wednesday, after a 0.2 percent rise in July.

Moody’s cut the credit ratings of two French banks on Wednesday because of their exposure to Greece’s debt, highlighting growing risks to Europe’s financial sector from a deepening euro zone sovereign debt crisis.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says European leaders have to make it clear that they “stand behind” its financial system so that it can fund and finance the economic recovery.

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