US stock gains evaporate after Italian vote

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stock indexes gave up early gains and turned mixed Tuesday after the outcome of a confidence vote in Italy made it unclear whether the country would be able to avoid a debt crisis of its own. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 16 points in late morning trading.

Yields on Italian government bonds have spiked this week, a sign that markets are questioning the country’s ability to pay its debt. Unlike Greece, Portugal or Ireland ? all of which received financial lifelines ? Italy has too much debt to be rescued by its European neighbors.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi won a confidence vote Tuesday, but the result left him without a majority in parliament. Berlusconi’s main coalition ally had urged him to step aside ahead of the vote. Many investors believe a new government would enact more austerity measures that could help Italy cut its debt load and remain part of the euro.

Europe’s debt crisis has dictated much of the trading in financial markets since the beginning of October. Investors fear that a default by Greece or another nation that shares the euro currency would lead to a widespread financial crisis similar to the one in 2008 after the fall of Lehman Brothers.

“Europe is the last big question hanging over the market, and drowned out a decent earnings season,” said Rick Fier, vice president of equity trading at Confier Securities. “The market has been so whipsawed lately that it’s really just staying in place until we know some more outcomes.”

The Dow was down 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,052 at 11 a.m. Eastern. Walt Disney Co. fell the most among the 30 stocks in the Dow, 1.7 percent.

The S&P 500 gained was unchanged at 1,261. The Nasdaq composite added 3, or 0.2 percent, to 2,699.

European shares were broadly higher, but also gave up some of their gains after the results of the Italian vote came out. Italy’s main index was up 1 percent. It had been up 2.5 percent earlier in the day. Germany’s main index rose 1 percent, France’s 1.6 percent.

In the U.S., the Labor Department said employers advertised more jobs in September than at any other point in the past three years. The 7 percent increase in job openings are a hopeful sign that companies may step up hiring. Inc. rose 5.6 percent after saying that its third-quarter earnings more than doubled from a year earlier. Most of the gains were attributed to a jump in hotel bookings.

Activision Blizzard Inc. gained 1.4 percent in premarket trading ahead of the company’s earnings report. Investors expect the company’s latest “Call of Duty” video game to sell about 10 percent more units than last year’s version.

Auction house Sotheby’s fell 7 percent after the company posted a wider-than-expected loss in the third quarter.