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Baby steps for stocks
Oil pressures market, but Lucent buoys techs; Wachovia, Citigroup, home sales in focus.
August 23, 2005: 9:43 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Stocks opened cautiously as investors focused on oil prices and looked ahead to a report on home sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average (up 10.66 to 10,569.89, Charts) and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 (up 2.02 to 1,221.73, Charts) were little changed, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite (up 5.85 to 2,141.41, Charts) gained 0.2 percent.

Oil prices, which have erased markets gains for the past few sessions, edged further above the $65 a barrel mark.

The October light crude futures contract for NYMEX gained 32 cents to $65.97 a barrel in electronic trading early Tuesday, hovering near $66 all morning.

Several traders said they believe the market will not find direction until crude prices stabilize.

In economic news, the markets will get the latest reading on the closely watched real estate market at 10 a.m. ET, when the National Association of Realtors releases its monthly report on existing home sales. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast that those sales slipped slightly to a 7.25 million annual pace from the record 7.33 million sales rate in June.

The tech sector got a bit of a lift from Lucent (unchanged at $2.87, Research), which was upgraded by Prudential Equity Group to overweight from neutral weight. The brokerage said continued wireless momentum should boost earnings in the fourth quarter of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006.

Intel (Research) shares will also be in focus as the company holds its Intel Development forum and on the news that it will work with Research in Motion (Research) on a joint development deal.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index gained about 1 percent in the early going.

In more stock news, Citigroup (unchanged at $44.20, Research) will be in focus today as the market digests news that global consumer group chairman and CEO Marjorie Magner has quit.

Magner was named the most powerful woman in the industry by U.S. Banker magazine in September 2004.

Wachovia (Research) shares edged lower after a published report said the bank is one of a handful of companies exploring a deal for the auto-finance firm WFS Financial (Research). WFS shares looked set to open higher.

Major markets in Asia closed mixed Tuesday. Major European markets were mostly lower in midday trading.

Bond prices were flat, leaving the yield on the 10-year treasury at 4.21 percent, while the dollar gained ground on the euro and the yen.

COMEX gold gained 90 cents to $443.90.  Top of page

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