Stocks Struggled after Inflation Data

Stocks struggled to hold gains in early trading on Friday as data showed inflation remained in check as the domestic economy continues to improve. The Dow Jones industrial average lately was down 2.96 points, or 0.02 percent, at 13,249.80. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.54 point, or 0.04 percent, at 1,402.06. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 4.51 points, or 0.15 percent, at 3,051.86.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.4 percent last month after advancing 0.2 percent in January, in-line with expectations, while inflation pressure, excluding food and energy, remained subdued.

The output of the nation’s factories, mines and utilities was flat in February, the Federal Reserve said Friday. This was well below Wall Street expectations of a 0.4% gain.

Britain is poised to cooperate with the United States on a release of strategic oil stocks that is expected within months, two British sources said, in a bid to prevent fuel prices choking economic growth in a U.S. election year.

Apple Inc. put its newest iPad on sale Friday to the usual long lines of eager customers, while Wall Street brokers have been pumping up their expectations for the company.

Crude-oil prices edged higher during European trading. April futures for light, sweet crude rose 34 cents, or 0.2%, to $105.57 a barrel in electronic trading Friday.

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