Stocks mixed ahead of Slovakia vote on rescue fund

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NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks wavered Tuesday as investors worried that Slovakia might block an expansion of Europe’s financial rescue program.

Sixteen countries that use the euro have approved a measure to strengthen a European rescue fund, but Slovakia hasn’t signed off on the plan yet. The measure would increase the size and powers of Europe’s financial rescue fund, allowing large amounts of money to be released quickly to banks and struggling governments before a full-blown crisis sets in. A vote is expected later in the day. If Slovakia blocks the measure, it could complicate efforts to address Europe’s debt jam.

The Dow Jones industrial average bounced between small gains and losses while other major indexes edged up.

The Dow fell 4 points, to 11,428, shortly before noon. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1, or 0.1 percent, at 1,196. The Nasdaq rose 13, or 0.5 percent, to 2,579.

The weak trading comes a day after the Dow jumped 330 points, its largest increase since Aug. 11.

Investors worry that if Greece defaults on its debts, it would hurt banks in Europe and in the U.S. by causing the value of Greek government bonds they hold to plunge. With weaker balance sheets, those banks could become even more reluctant to lend to each other and to businesses and consumers. That could slow down an already weak global economy.

Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. fell 1.9 percent after the car-rental company said it was taking itself off the market after failing to get acceptable takeover proposals from Hertz or other companies.

Discount retailer 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. rose 4.4 percent. Ares Management LLC and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have offered to buy the company for $22 per share in cash, a 7 percent premium from Monday’s closing price.

Sprint Nextel Corp. fell 2.9 percent. The stock has plunged 26 percent since Friday, when Sprint said it wants to speed up plans to revamp its high-speed wireless network. Analysts say that will raise its expenses dramatically.

After the closing bell, aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. will become the first company in the Dow Jones industrial average to report third-quarter results. Analysts expect earnings from S&P 500 companies to rise about 12 percent from the same period last year, according to data provider FactSet. Revenue is expected to rise 11 percent.