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Stocks open slightly higher on Wall Street

Trader Frank O'Connell  works on the floor of

Trader Frank O'Connell  works on the floor of the NYSE, Aug. 2, 2017. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks edged higher in early trading Friday, recouping some of the ground they lost after the market’s biggest single-day drop in nearly three months. Technology and health care stocks were among the big gainers. Utilities companies were down the most. Investors had their eye on company earnings and the latest developments in the ongoing tensions between North Korea and the United States.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,445 as of 10:19 a.m. Friday on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average added 51 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,895. The Nasdaq composite gained 32 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,249. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,373.

TOUGH TALK: Tensions between the United States and North Korea continued to simmer early Friday. In a tweet, President Donald Trump warned of military action “should North Korea act unwisely,” noting that the United States is “locked and loaded.” Earlier this week, Trump said the country would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continued to threaten the United States. North Korea has announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers.

There were fewer signs of anxiousness in the markets Friday. Bond and gold prices, traditional havens for nervous investors, were little changed, and the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, slid 6.7 percent following a 44.4 percent jump the day before. It’s still the highest it’s been since May.

INFLATION: The Labor Department said consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent in July following no gain in June. Inflation has risen 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, suggesting that inflation pressures remain well under control. The Federal Reserve, which raised its key interest rate in March and June, has signaled it plans a third rate hike before the end of this year. But some economists say the Fed may stand pat for the rest of 2017 unless inflation accelerates in coming months.

UP WITH TECH: Investors bid up technology sector shares. The sector was the biggest decliner on Thursday. KLA-Tencor gained $2.52, or 2.9 percent, to $90.07, while Seagate Technology added 97 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $32.53.

BIG GAINERS: Health care stocks were among the big gainers. Perrigo rose $2.17, or 2.8 percent, to $79.01. Vertex Pharmaceuticals picked up $3.19, or 2.1 percent, to $151.73.

SALES SLUMP: J.C. Penney sank 16.6 percent after the struggling department store chain reported quarterly results that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. The company also said sales at its established stores declined for the fourth-straight quarter. The stock lost 78 cents to $3.93.

SLIDING: Traders sold-off utilities stocks. AES Corp. shed 26 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $11.12.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 21 cents to $48.38 a barrel on the on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 35 cents to $51.55 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 109.11 yen from 109.26 late Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1791 from $1.1774.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.22 percent from 2.20 percent late Thursday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major indexes in Europe were mixed. Germany’s DAX was up 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 fell 1.1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1 percent. In Asia, several indexes closed lower overnight. South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.7 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.2 percent. Japan was closed on a public holiday.

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