Stocks Waver After Eurozone Debt Sales

U.S. stocks started slightly higher Monday, recovering from the prior session’s losses, as some pressure came off European debt markets and investors traded cautiously ahead of fourth-quarter earnings reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately gained 3.29 points to 12,363.21. The S&P 500 was near flat at 1,278.27. The Nasdaq Composite rose 3.95 points to 2,678.17. 

German exports bounced back in November boosting the country’s trade surplus, a sign that Europe’s largest economy may avoid a sharp slowdown in contrast to France which is expected to have run up a record trade deficit in 2011.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Greece on Monday it would not be possible to give further aid without rapid progress on its second rescue package, including a voluntary write-down on Greek debt held by private creditors.

Swiss central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand resigned on Monday in the face of growing criticism of a controversial currency trade made by his wife in August.

Japan’s Olympus Corp has sued its current president and three ex-directors for several million dollars in compensation, sources told Reuters on Monday, as the company seeks to draw a line under one of the nation’s worst accounting scandals.

Zep Inc. (NYSE: ZEP) saw its profit fall in the first quarter due to declines in end-markets such as government, vehicle wash and home improvement retail, plus inflation in the cost of raw materials that outpaced the company’s ability to raise selling prices. Revenue: $153.5 million, down 3.5 percent;Net Income: $3.6 million, down 27.5 percent;Earnings Per Share: 16 cents, down 27.3 percent.

Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc.’s first quarter profits fell by more than half due to the effects of the European debt crisis, though the company still managed to beat Wall Street estimates. It posted a 20 percent gain in first quarter sales, rising from $675 million to $812 million. Net income, however, fell from $17.8 million, or 64 cents per share, to $7 million, or 25 cents per share.

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