US stocks rise; Apple up on dividend announcement

NEW YORK (AP) ? U.S. stocks rose slightly Monday in a ho-hum opening after their best week of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average spent most of the morning in the red, then climbed to 13,247, up 15 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq composite fell in the early minutes of trading but then rose. The S&P 500 was up five points to 1,410, and the Nasdaq was up 18 to 3,074.

Last week, the Dow and S&P 500 rose 2.4 percent apiece, their best showing of the year. For the first time, the Dow closed above 13,000 and the Nasdaq above 3,000 on the same day.

In the absence of any major economic news, the markets latched on to announcements from a few well-known companies.

Apple rose about 2 percent to $595.88 after announcing that it would pay a shareholder dividend and buy back $10 billion of its stock over three years. The stock hit an all-time high of $600.01 last week.

The dividend is expected to expand the company’s shareholder reach because value-oriented mutual funds that focus on dividends will buy it. Apple’s stock has already risen from $405 this year, partly in anticipation of the dividend.

UPS rose 4 percent after announcing it would buy TNT Express, the second-largest express mail company in Europe, further cementing UPS’ status as the world’s largest delivery company.

Citigroup rose 4 percent after announcing it had sold its share in a Shanghai bank for $668 million. The move should help the bank establish its own businesses in China. The bank is slimming down to try to shake off the vestiges of the financial crisis.

Sprint Nextel fell 5 percent after a Sanford C. Bernstein analyst downgraded the stock to underperform and predicted that future incarnations of the iPhone will not work too well with the Sprint network. The analyst, Craig Moffett, also expressed concern about the company’s heavy debt burden.

There was little in the way of major economic indicators. The National Association of Home Builders index of builder confidence came in unchanged from the previous month.

“There’s not really a lot to say,” said Stephen Carl, head equity trader at Williams Capital Group. “I guess we could just toss a coin in the air and see which way it goes.”

Prices for U.S. Treasury debt slid for the ninth day in a row, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note hit 2.32 percent, the highest since October. Investors feeling more confident in the economy are putting their money in riskier assets like stocks.

European markets were mixed. The main stock indexes fell less than 1 percent in France, Britain and Germany. Stocks rose 1.7 percent in Greece and 0.7 percent in Spain.

Though Greece’s debt crisis has faded from the spotlight, Greece remains in deep recession, and uncertainty lingers. Unions throughout Europe are protesting cuts in benefits, making it difficult for governments to rein in their spending.

Leadership questions are also bubbling up, with the Greek finance minister stepping down to run the majority Socialist party and France gearing up for presidential elections.

At a conference Sunday in Beijing, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said that European leaders need to stay vigilant about debt.

“The world economy has stepped back from the brink, and we have causes to be a little bit more optimistic,” she said. “But optimism should not give us a sense of comfort and certainly should not lull us into a false sense of security.”

The price of oil continued to rise, climbing to $107.70, up 63 cents. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose a penny over the weekend to $3.84 and is up 30 cents in a month, pushed higher by tension in Europe over Iran’s nuclear program..