Stocks Edge Higher after Tepid Start

U.S. stocks edged higher after opening nearly unchanged on Monday as Europe readied to seal Greece’s rescue package and after China reported a large monthly trade deficit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 18.85 points to 12,940.87. The S&P 500 Index rose 0.28 point to 1,371.15. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 2.57 points to 2,990.91.

A debate about imposing a financial-transaction tax in Europe is heating up, with a key discussion set for this week at a summit of the region’s leaders, but observers say there is little chance the European Union will impose such a tax any time soon.

China posted a trade deficit of $31.48 billion in February after reporting a $27.28 billion surplus in January, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Saturday.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline rose above the $3.80 mark Monday, resuming the advance that has plagued drivers throughout the winter.

Oil prices fell below $107 a barrel Monday in Asia as a slowdown in China’s trade suggested demand for crude could weaken. Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 57 cents to $106.83 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Volkswagen AG, Europe’s biggest carmaker by sales, said Monday it was targeting a further increase in deliveries and revenues in 2012 despite difficult trading conditions in some European countries.

Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group says it is being sued for 541.9 million Swiss francs ($589 million) by its former business partner Tiffany & Co. over a contract dispute. Swatch says the New York-based jeweler is striking back after the Swiss group last year claimed 3.8 billion in damages from Tiffany.

Asahi Kasei Corp. said Monday that it has agreed to buy U.S. medical equipment maker Zoll Medical Corp. (NASDAQ:ZOLL) in a deal valued at $2.21 billion, as it seeks growth opportunities outside its home market.






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