Stocks Opened Narrowly Mixed ahead of Obama’s State

U.S. stocks struggled for direction at the open on Tuesday as investors digested a batch of earnings reports and ahead of President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 0.74 points, or 0.01%, to 13,971.98, the S&P 500 index was off 0.65 point to 1,516.36 and the Nasdaq Composite index slipped 1.67 points to 3,190.33.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address tonight represents his largest single opportunity to sway the public and Congress behind his goal for “balanced” deficit reduction, according to his longtime strategist David Axelrod.

Coca-Cola Co (KO) reported fourth-quarter revenue slightly below analysts’ estimates, hurt by a weaker-than-expected performance in Europe.T he company said revenue rose 4 percent to $11.46 billion.

The McGraw-Hill Cos. swung to a net loss in the fourth quarter as it took a big charge on the pending sale of its educational publishing division. McGraw-Hill lost $216 million, or 78 cents, in the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $214 million, or 75 cents per share a year earlier. Revenue rose 22 percent but also fell short of expectations.

Michael Kors’ profit rose fourfold during its holiday quarter. Michael Kors earned $130 million, or 64 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 29, which contains the holiday shopping season, a critical time for retailers. That’s up sharply from profit after preferred dividends of $32 million, or 20 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue surged 71 percent to $606.9 million from $354 million.

Confidence among U.S. small businesses rose in January as owners anticipated better business conditions in the next six months, despite higher taxes and looming government spending cuts. The National Federation of Independent Business said on Tuesday its optimism index increased 0.9 percentage point to 88.9 last month, pulling further from a 2-1/2 year low hit in November.

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