Stocks Opened Higher As Investors Weigh Stress Tests

U.S. stocks began modestly higher on Wednesday as Wall Street considered stress-tests results of financial institutions by the Federal Reserve. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 23.12 points to 13,200.80. The S&P 500 was up 1.54 points at 1,397.49. The Nasdaq Composite rose 7.67 points to 3,047.55.

Most of the largest banks passed their annual stress test, according to the Federal Reserve, in a conservative report card that underscored the recovery of the financial sector but called out a few laggards, including Citigroup.

Demand for home purchases picked up for the third week in a row last week, though applications for refinancing sagged, an industry group said on Wednesday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of overall mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 2.4 percent in the week ended March 9.

Import prices rose 0.4% in February owing to a spike in oil, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. It’s the first increase in three months and biggest gain since April 2011.

The U.S. current account deficit, which is the combined balances on trade in goods and services, income, and donations, widened to $124.1 billion in the fourth quarter, or 3.2% of gross domestic product, from a downwardly revised $107.6 billion in the third quarter. This is the largest quarterly deficit since the fourth quarter of 2008. 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s (NYSE:GS) executive director and a manager of its derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa resigned on Wednesday and sharply criticized the firm in an op-ed piece published by the New York Times. New York Times op-ed by an outgoing Goldman Sachs executive says the bank’s “culture, people and identity” are not what they once were, alleging open talk of ripping off client to enrich the firm.

Gold futures sank Wednesday. Gold for April delivery was off $48.20, or 2.85, to $1,646.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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