US stocks mixed as Greece negotiates to cut debt

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks were mixed Monday morning, while European indexes and the euro rose on hopes that Greece will reach a deal with private creditors on lowering its debt. The euro neared its highest level against the dollar this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 7 points to 12,713 as of 11:15 a.m., giving up an earlier gain of 44. Procter & Gamble fell 1.7 percent, the biggest drop in the Dow.

Creditors are in negotiations with the Greek government to reduce that country’s debt burden so it can avoid default. European finance ministers are expected to give new momentum to a Greek debt relief deal. One proposal would have Greece’s private creditors, which include banks and other investors, swap their bonds for news ones at a 50 percent discount.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged up 1 point to 1,316. The Nasdaq composite is up 1 point to 2,787.

The euro rose 1.2 percent to $1.304, its highest point since Jan. 3. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.07 percent from 2.03 percent late Friday as investors moved money out of low-risk assets.

Energy companies were making large moves in early trading. Chesapeake Energy Corp. jumped 4 percent after the country’s second-largest natural gas producer said it plans to cut production, a response to plunging prices. Natural gas futures rose 3.5 percent to $2.47 per 1,000 cubic feet. Gas futures were trading above $4 just six months ago.

Stocks of other gas producers shot higher. Southwestern Energy Co. rose 8 percent and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. 7.1 percent.

Apache Corp. inched up less than 1 percent after the oil and gas producer said it plans on buying Cordillera Energy Partners in a $2.85 billion deal. It’s the largest merger announced in the U.S. this year.

Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of BlackBerry mobile devices, sank 6.2 percent after its new chief executive said no drastic changes are needed. The company’s founders announced they were stepping down as co-CEOs late Sunday.

Stocks are off to a strong start in 2012, as investors’ biggest fears have slowly faded. Stronger than expected job growth in the U.S. and falling borrowing costs for European governments have helped the S&P 500 index post gains for three weeks in a row. The index is now up 4.7 percent for the year.