Stocks Begin Higher on ECB Comments

U.S. stocks opened higher on Friday after the European Central Bank said it would take further steps to ease loans collateral for banks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 68.50 points, or 0.54%, to 12,618.23. The S&P 500 climbed 4.79 points, or 0.36%, to 1,330.30. The Nasdaq Composite rose 7.77 points, or 0.27%, to 2,866.86.

The European Central Bank on Friday said it had taken further steps to “improve the access of the banking sector” to certain European funding operations by widening the eligible collateral.

Google Inc. defended its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility at its annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, saying its purchase of the wireless phone maker was about more than simply gaining access to its broad portfolio of patents. Reuters Google chairman Eric Schmidt, shown here in a speech from Nov. 15, 2011, addressed shareholders on Thursday.

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain will try to find a way to pull Europe out of its crippling debt crisis at a meeting in Rome Friday amid increasing pressure on Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to give ground on key proposals to kickstart the region’s economy.

Darden Restaurants Inc. DRI -1.83%reported higher earnings Friday but said a “frustratingly slow” economic recovery is weighing on sales at its Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse chains. For its latest quarter, Darden reported a profit of $151.2 million, or $1.15 a share, up from $137.4 million, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 3.8% to $2.07 billion.

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