Stocks Start Higher, Inspired by Cisco

U.S. stocks opened higher on Wednesday after computer-networking-equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. reported quarterly profit that beat expectations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 1.96 points, or 0.02%, to 12,758.14. The S&P 500 index added 2.16 points, or 0.16%, to 1,376.69. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 12.09 points, or 0.42%, to 2,895.98.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) reported first-quarter profit of 48 cents a share beat the analyst estimate by 2 cents, according to data compiled by FactSet. Earnings rose by 18% for the quarter while sales rose nearly 6%. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue came in at 38.6% compared to 41.6% for the same period last year.

Americans cut back on spending at retail businesses in October, an indication that some remain cautious about the economic outlook. Superstorm Sandy also depressed car sales and slowed business in the Northeast at the end of the month. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales dropped 0.3 percent after three months of gains. Auto sales fell 1.5 percent, the most in more than a year.

Wholesale prices in the U.S. posted the biggest decline in October in more than a year and a half, mostly because of lower costs of gasoline and motor vehicles. The producer price index fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2% last month, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

President Barack Obama is lobbying business and labor groups to support $1.6 trillion in new revenue to avoid an impending fiscal cliff, telling the two sides he remains committed to requiring the wealthy to pay more in taxes. 

Police and protesters clashed in Spain on Wednesday as millions of workers went on strike across Europe to protest spending cuts they say have made the economic crisis worse.

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