By Alex Veiga
(AP) U.S. stocks edged mostly higher in early trading Wednesday, led by gains in oil and gas companies as the price of crude oil veered higher after a long slump. Investors also welcomed encouraging economic data out of China indicating a smaller drop in the nation’s exports.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,550 as of 9:57 a.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,943. The Nasdaq composite slipped four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,682.
DRIVING DIVIDEND: General Motors rose 2.7 percent after the automaker raised its dividend and added to its stock repurchase program. The stock added 82 cents to $31.12.
DEAL PLANS: MetLife jumped 6.5 percent after the company said it plans to sell or spin off a large part of its life insurance business. The stock gained $2.70 to $44.66.
RESILIENCE: Stock markets in the U.S. and Europe are showing some resilience in the face of the volatility in China. Worries over the future of the world’s second-largest economy have triggered big falls in stock markets around the world at the start of 2016.
EYES ON CHINA: China’s exports rose 2.3 percent in December from a year earlier in yuan terms, reversing a 3.7 percent drop in November. Exports fell in dollar terms but the decrease was smaller than November’s. The data suggest a weakening in the yuan may be helping boost demand for Chinese products, providing welcome support for the slowing economy.
OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.4 percent while France’s CAC 40 rose 1 percent. The FTSE 100 of leading British shares was 1.3 percent higher. In Asia, stocks rallied despite a 2.4 percent drop in the Shanghai Composite. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index jumped 2.9 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 1.3 percent. Shares in New Zealand and Southeast Asia were mostly higher.
ENERGY: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 93 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $31.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, gained 79 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $31.74 a barrel in London.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.13 percent from 2.11 percent. Trading in foreign exchange markets was subdued. The euro was little changed at 1.0854 and the dollar rose to 118.16 yen from 117.58 yen.