Stocks Fluctuate in Early Trading after Data

U.S. stocks veered between mild gains and losses in early trading on Tuesday as better-than-expected reports on the U.S. economy competed with worry about Europe’s debt crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 12.95 points to 12,091.93. The S&P 500 Index was up 1.95 points to 1,253.73.  The Nasdaq Composite was up 5.98 points to 2,663.20.

U.S. consumers spent more money at online stores such as Amazon and electronics and appliance stores such as Best Buy, as retail sales rose sharply for the second straight month. Sales at U.S retailers increased 0.5% in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That follows a strong 1.1% surge in September.

U.S. producer prices in October dropped by the largest amount in 20 months as a big drop in gasoline as well as a decline in vehicle prices offset higher costs for eggs, poultry and medications, according to data released Tuesday. The producer price index fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month, the Labor Department said.

A gauge of manufacturing in New York state rose in November, ending five straight months of contraction, while the outlook for coming months strengthened, the New York Federal Reserve said in a report on Tuesday. The New York Fed’s “Empire State” general business conditions index rose to 0.61, marking the first time the index has been in positive territory since May and up from minus 8.48 the month before.

The euro-zone economy eked out further growth in the third quarter, but economists still fear the region’s long-running debt crisis could soon spell a return to recession.  Third-quarter gross domestic product across the 17-nation shared-currency area expanded by 0.2% compared to the second quarter and grew 1.4% versus the third quarter of 2010, the European Union’s statistics agency reported on Tuesday.

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear raided Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, evicting dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters from what has become the epicenter of the worldwide movement protesting corporate greed and economic inequality.

Qatar Airways finally returned to the table to sign a $6.5-billion deal with Airbus (Paris:EAD.PA) hours after cancelling an announcement at the last minute and bluntly telling the European planemaker to go back to basics.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s decision to absorb most of the rising food costs for its stressed U.S. shoppers and spend on its e-commerce business weighed on profitability, even as key U.S. sales rose for the first time in more than two years.

Staples Inc (NasdaqGS:SPLS), the largest U.S. office supply retailer, reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales, hurt by weak demand in Europe, and cut its profit forecast for the year. In the third quarter ended on October 29, net income rose to $326.3 million, or 47 cents a share. Sales rose slightly to $6.57 billion, compared with the average estimate of $6.72 billion.

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