NEW YORK — Investors are taking little comfort from the latest deal to deliver financial aid to Greece and increases in U.S. consumer confidence and orders for machinery and equipment.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 11 points to 12,956 as of 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up two points at 1,408. The Nasdaq composite index rose five points to 2,981 points. Stocks moved between small gains and small declines during most of the morning.
ConAgra advanced $1.32 to $29.61 after it agreed to buy Ralcorp for $5 billion in a deal that will make it the nation's biggest maker of private-label foods. Ralcorp surged $18.48 to $88.72. Corning Inc., a specialty glass maker, rose 76 cents to $12.32 after it said that North American television sales are stronger than expected in the fourth quarter, boosting demand for its products.
While stocks have gained this year as the Federal Reserve has maintained it bond-buying stimulus program, concern about global growth and the "fiscal cliff" in the U.S. may limit further advances, said Uri Landesman, President of Platinum Partners, a New York-based hedge fund. The S&P is up 12 percent this year, the Dow 6 percent.
"The glass is half-empty right now," Landesman said. "With the S&P over 1,400 you're going to need to see really good data for the market to rise, and the data wasn't good enough to really pick us up here."
Two reports that suggested that the outlook for the U.S. economy may be improving failed to encourage investors to push stocks higher.
Consumer confidence rose this month to the highest level in almost five years, pushed up by steady improvement in hiring. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 in November from 73.1 in October. Both are the best readings since February 2008.