Stocks Open Flat on Mixed Earnings

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks were mostly unchanged in early trading Thursday, following mixed quarterly results from companies like Facebook and Whole Foods.

Investors are also preparing for the release of the government's monthly jobs report, out Friday.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,902 as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,105 and the Nasdaq composite rose six points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,148.

LIKED: Facebook shares jumped $5.90, or 6 percent, to $109.89. The social network reported an 11 percent gain in quarterly profits, helped by higher advertising revenue.

ROTTEN: Whole Foods Market fell $1.39, or 5 percent, to $29.34. The grocery store chain reported that its latest quarterly profit fell by more than half as it faces intense competition because organic foods are becoming more widely available. The results missed analysts' estimates.

FED WATCH: Testifying before a committee of the U.S. Congress, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen described the U.S. economy as "performing well" and said an interest rate hike in December was a "live possibility" if the economy stays on track. Her view was echoed by another Fed policymaker later in the day. Yellen did stress that no decision has been made yet and a move in December will depend on how the economy fares between now and then.

Yellen's comments set the stage for tomorrow's jobs report. Investors expect that U.S. employers added 185,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1 percent.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Even with weak data, Fed rhetoric increasingly points toward a December lift-off," DBS Group Research said in a daily commentary. The report said it was only a week ago when markets lowered the odds of a December rate hike due to poor data. "Markets have had to adjust expectations rapidly."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude futures fell 42 cents to $45.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slumped $1.58, or 3.3 percent, to close at $46.32 a barrel on Wednesday as Yellen's comments pushed up the dollar.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose slightly to $1.0876 from $1.0866 on Wednesday. The dollar strengthened to 121.89 yen from 121.51 yen.

(BAS)