Stocks trade mixed as Greek debt talks drag on

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks were mixed Wednesday afternoon as questions mounted over whether Greece will hammer out a cost-cutting deal it needs to keep from defaulting on its debt.

After climbing in early trading, the Dow was down 15 points to 12,863 at 1 p.m. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell less than a point to 1,347. The Nasdaq composite edged up 2 to 2,906.

Ralph Lauren rose 10 percent after beating analysts’ estimates for quarterly earnings, a sign that wealthy customers are still spending even as the economy struggles with high unemployment. Whole Foods, another company aimed at wealthier shoppers, rose 2 percent. Buffalo Wild Wings shot up 14 percent after reporting income and revenue that easily beat analysts’ estimates.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., a major casino operator, shot up 76 percent to $15.80, from its original pricing of $9 on its first day as a public company. That was a sign of confidence for a company that tried to go public in late 2010 but nixed the plan after a couple of weeks, blaming market conditions.

Rick Fier, vice president of equity trading at Conifer Securities in New York, cautioned that even though many companies are turning in strong earnings, overall revenue growth appears to be slowing. That “gives us cause for concern,” Fier said.

Sprint Nextel Corp. fell 2 percent after the phone company reported a fourth-quarter loss. While Sprint added subscribers, it had to pay dearly for them. Sprint started offering customers iPhones, but it had to subsidize the cost so customers could buy them for as little as $99.

OpenTable, which lets people make dinner reservations online, fell 11 percent. Though the company beat analysts’ predictions for fourth-quarter earnings, it also issued a cautious forecast for the current quarter.

Investors are still worried about the possibility that Greece could default on its debt next month. Greece’s leaders are having trouble agreeing on new cost-cutting measures being demanded by the country’s lenders. A series of deadlines have already passed without agreement being reached.

Even if a deal is reached, bondholders will almost certainly be forced to take giant write-downs, which could cripple future demand for Greek government debt. Greece will likely have to cut more from its bloated expenses, which won’t go over well in a country already protesting that cuts have been too severe.