Stocks Mostly Higher Ahead of Fed Talks

NEW YORK (AP) -- The U.S. market is quiet for a third day in a row but mostly higher Wednesday following a raft of generally positive economic reports. Investors are looking forward to the Federal Reserve's comments on the state of the economy later in the day. Oil prices are rising on reports that major energy-producing nations will hold a new round of talks about curbing oil production.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell three points to 17,248 as of 10:12 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose one point to 2,017. The Nasdaq composite index added 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,739. It's been a mixed week on the market, which has risen for each of the last four weeks. The Dow is up slightly this week, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are a bit lower.

FED TIME: Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting ends Wednesday. The central bank is expected to keep rates steady amid uncertainty about the global economy and financial markets, but the Fed's statement and Chair Janet Yellen's press conference after the meeting could shed more light on the Fed's interest rate plans.

ENERGY: Oil prices rose after the announcement that major oil producing countries will meet in Qatar in April to hold more talks about a freeze in oil output levels. A deal — which is far from a sure thing — could help relieve a global glut that has depressed oil prices.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.16, or 3.2 percent, to $37.50 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, gained $1.14, or 2.9 percent, to $39.91 a barrel in London.

Energy companies were the biggest gainers in early trading. Williams Cos. rose 90 cents, or 5.6 percent, to $17.05. Newfield Exploration added $1.23, or 3.9 percent, to $33.07 and Hess picked up $1.06, or 2.1 percent, to $51.23.

OUT OF POWER: Peabody Energy, the largest coal mining company in the U.S., is plunging after it said it is delaying an interest payment and may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The stock sank $1.85, or 46.1 percent, to $2.16.

BLAND: Chipotle Mexican Grill forecast a big loss in the first quarter as sales tumbled after a series of illness scares. The Mexican food chain has never reported a quarterly loss since it went public in 2006 and had said it expected to break even during the first quarter. Its stock shed $21.04, or 4.2 percent, to $481.96.

SAW IT COMING: Software maker Oracle is rising after it reported mixed quarterly results and said it will buy back $10 billion in company stock. It picked up $1.36, or 3.5 percent, to $40.10.

INFLATION PUMPED UP: The Labor Department said core inflation, or inflation that leaves out energy and food prices, continued to rise. It's up 2.3 percent over the last year, the largest gain in almost four years. Overall inflation slipped in February because of lower gas prices and it's up just 1 percent in the last year. The Fed has been looking closely at inflation as it mulls whether to raise rates. Though one of the Fed's main goals is to prevent runaway inflation, it wants to see inflation rise more than it has in recent years to be sure the economy is healthy enough to handle higher rates.

Separate reports showed construction of new homes continued to grow in February, but applications were weak again, a sign of future trouble. Meanwhile U.S. factories made more machinery, appliances and computer in February. It's the second straight monthly increase and a sign manufacturing is improving.

OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX gained 0.4 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.6 percent. France's CAC 40 fell 0.2 percent. Asian stocks were also mixed, as Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.8 percent and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent to while the Shanghai Composite index rose 0.2 percent.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.99 percent from 1.97 percent. The euro declined to $1.1065 from $1.1107 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 113.70 yen from 113.10 yen.

(KA)