Stocks Little Changed on Greek Optimism

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are little changed in midday trading as optimistic investors wait for a deal with Greece and its creditors to help the country avoid default.

Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden restaurants, was among the biggest gainers after reporting good earnings.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gained one point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 18,121 as of 12:29 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost one points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,121 and the Nasdaq composite fell seven points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,144.

GREEK TALKS: Greece's proposals for budget savings appear to have won the initial backing from its creditors.

At a meeting Monday, leaders of the 19 nations that use the euro currency said the offer by the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras might form a basis of a deal to break a four-month deadlock. European finance ministers are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, followed by a summit of the region's political leaders.

Tsipras has to sell the proposal to his own political party back in Greece. His Syriza party was voted into office on a pledge to repeal the harsh budget cuts and tax increases that previous governments had imposed since 2010.

Investors think a deal will be signed by the end of the week, in time for Greece to get the money it needs to make an upcoming payment to the International Monetary Fund.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "We always knew there was going to be a lot of drama with Greece," said Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors. "Having said that, if things do take a turn for the worst, the EU is fare better equipped to handle this crisis compared to a few years ago."

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices edged higher on Tuesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was at 2.39 percent. The dollar rose to 123.84 Japanese yen and the euro fell to $1.1175.

U.S. Treasuries have been selling off sharply in recent weeks as investors anticipate that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade later this year.

SALAD, BREADSTICKS AND REAL ESTATE: Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden, rose 86 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $70.27. The restaurant holding company announced stronger-than-expected quarterly results and also said it planned on spinning off its significant real estate assets into a separate company.

THAT'S A LOT OF GREEN: Prepaid debit card company Green Dot soared $5.26, or 35 percent, to $20.57 after the company announced it was had renewed its partnership with Wal-Mart for another five years. The company also will buy back $150 million in stock.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 79 cents to $61.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, climbed $1.15 to $64.50 a barrel.

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