U.S. stocks rise modestly following inflation, industrial data

Stocks tried for a modest advance Friday after Wall Street found some relief in an inflation reading that was better than the market feared and as industrial production showed a stronger-than-expected increase.

The Labor Department's report that its Consumer Price Index rose by 0.4 percent in February stirred some of the concerns that dogged stocks on Thursday. The increase was double that of January and the largest rise since a similar increase in December. Rising costs for gasoline, food and citrus crops helped boost prices. Wall Street had expected an increase of 0.3 percent.

However, the important core figure, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, perhaps brought some relief to Wall Street as the 0.2 percent increase met expectations.

The Federal Reserve also reported industrial production rose 1 percent in February, well above the 0.3 percent increase analysts expected.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.62, or 0.14 percent, to 12,177.30.

Broader stock indicators also moved modestly higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.37, or 0.31 percent, to 1,396.65, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 2.82, or 0.12 percent, to 2,381.52.

Bonds fell following the CPI report, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.56 percent from 4.54 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose 9 cents to $57.64 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Declining and advancing issues were essentially even on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 565.8 million shares.

The volatility that has returned to Wall Street after months of unusual calm was expected to surface again Friday with the expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures a confluence of expirations that Wall Street refers to as quadruple witching. The choppiness was not limited to Friday this week because rule changes have given investors more time during which they can jockey for new positions.

In corporate news, drug developer Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose 31 cents, or 12.4 percent, to $2.82 after it reported a narrower fourth-quarter loss when excluding a charge from a year earlier and said it would halt development of a treatment for radiation sickness. The Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month rejected the treatment for use in a national defense program, reports AP.

Hard-hit Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co. jumped $3.39, or 36 percent, to $12.82 after the subprime mortgage lender announced plans to sell some of its loans at a discount to raise cash necessary to meet margin calls.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.34, or 0.04 percent, to 783.27.

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