Stock hold gains, erasing early losses

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks held steady in the green Tuesday afternoon on growing confidence about the U.S. job market and hope that Greece will reach a debt deal.

Indexes were slightly higher after the U.S. government reported that job openings soared to the highest level in nearly three years in December. Investors were also optimistic that Greek leaders would agree on new cost-cutting measures being demanded by the country’s lenders.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 31 points at 12,876 shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern. It had been down as many as 62 points in the first half-hour of trading. Coca-Cola rose 1 percent, the most in the Dow, after the company reported income that was higher than analysts were expecting.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 2 points to 1,346. The Nasdaq composite rose 4 points to 2,906.

The jump in U.S. job openings was the latest sign that the job market was improving. The Dow jumped 156 points Friday after the government reported that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent as employers added more jobs in January.

Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group in Westport, Conn., believes that while investors are becoming more optimistic about the economy, there are still signs that they’re allocating money cautiously. The utilities sector was the best performer in the S&P 500, indicating that investors are still hanging on to stocks they consider to be relatively safe.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.99 percent from 1.90 percent late Monday. Demand for bonds waned as investors became more confident that Greece will reach a deal with its lenders for more bailout cash. A relatively weak auction of three-year Treasury notes also pushed bond prices lower.

The euro rose to a 2-year high against the dollar as worries eased about Greece and Europe’s debt problems. The euro rose 13 cents against the dollar to $1.33 in afternoon trading.

In the U.S., these stocks were among those making big moves:

? Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC, jumped 3 percent. The company’s income surged 30 percent in the fourth quarter on strong growth overseas and a turnaround in its Pizza Hut business in the U.S.

? Emerson Electric Co. lost 2 percent after the manufacturing and technology company said its first-quarter net income fell 23 percent as costs rose and sales took a hit from flooding in Thailand.

? Becton, Dickinson & Co., a medical technology company, fell 3 percent. The company’s income fell 17 percent in the latest quarter on higher costs for raw materials and other expenses. The company also cut its 2012 earnings forecast.