Stocks Opened Higher on Durable Goods, Caterpillar

U.S. stocks opened mostly higher on Monday after Caterpillar Inc.’s better-than- expected earnings report and a strong reading on orders for long-lasting consumer goods. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately added 7.64 points to 13,903.62. The S&P 500 index was off 0.97 point at 1,501.99. The Nasdaq Composite rose 7.28 points to 3,156.99.

A gauge of business confidence improved in December, a sign that business worries over tighter fiscal policy may not have held back investment plans as much as feared at the end of 2012. The Commerce Department said on Monday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for investment plans, edged 0.2 percent higher.

Caterpillar (CAT) reported quarterly earnings on Monday that fell, hurt by a big write-down in China. The company reported earnings of $1.91 a share, excluding a write-down of 87 cents a share relating to a China holding. That compared to earnings of $2.32 a share in the year-earlier period.

A quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economists released Monday shows half of the economists polled now expect real gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced in the United States — to grow between 2 and 4 percent in 2013. That’s up from 36 percent of respondents who felt the same way three months earlier.

Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year Monday at a record 9.748 million vehicles — a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles.

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