U.S. stocks fluctuate in early trading, seeking stability after big selloff

Stocks fluctuated in a narrow range Wednesday, showing some signs of stability on a satisfactory gross domestic product report and a recovery on some markets in other countries.

The major indexes opened higher and showed tepid resolve as the market sought to regain its footing a day after the Dow Jones industrials plunged 416 points amid growing concerns about slowing economies in the U.S. and China. Investors were trying to digest a batch of economic data that came out in the opening minutes of trading.

The National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago index of business conditions in the Midwest showed a weaker-than-expected reading. The February figure fell to 47.9 from 48.8 in January. The report is often viewed as a bellwether for the Institute for Supply Management's index of manufacturing activity for February, which is due Thursday.

Also, a Commerce Department report found new-home sales fell by 16.6 percent in January from the previous month, the largest drop in 13 years.

The market took some solace from the Commerce Department's report that the GDP rose at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter. The figure was slightly below expectations, but not enough to puncture Wednesday's nascent recovery.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke planned to testify on Capitol Hill that early action must be taken to overhaul the government's big benefit programs. Prepared remarks didn't address the market's decline Tuesday.

The Dow was up 12.50, or 0.10 percent, at 12,228.74.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 2.60, or 0.19 percent, at 1,401.64, and the Nasdaq composite index was off 4.25 percent, or 0.18 percent, at 2,403.61.

Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.54 percent from its low for the year of 4.47 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was little changed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell, reports AP.

In markets abroad, the Shanghai stock market, whose nearly 9 percent skid Tuesday started a global selloff, rose nearly 4 percent, helping to steady trading in the U.S.

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