Stocks were narrowly mixed in early trading Wednesday as the economy gave off fresh signs it could sidestep a sharp slowdown and a profit report from Boeing Co. blew past projections. The robust data offset skittishness about the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates due later in the day.
While Wall Street expects the Fed will leave short-term interest rates unchanged for the fifth straight time, investors are wrestling with their hopes that the economy will continue to grow but somehow still allow the inflation-wary central bank to lower rates.
In recent months Wall Street has worried less that the economy will slow sharply and more recently that it will heat up again and prompt the Fed to raise rates. The gross domestic product report out Wednesday could underscore that notion. The Commerce Department found the economy grew at 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter as consumers increased spending despite a pullback in the housing market. Wall Street had been expecting an increase of 3 percent.
In other economic news, the cost of hiring and retaining workers moderated in the fourth quarter, possibly easing some concern about wage inflation. Wages and benefits rose 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter, down from a 1 percent increase in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported.
In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 13.46, or 0.11 percent, at 12,536.77, reports AP.
Broader stock indicators were lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 1.84, or 0.13 percent, at 9,194.46 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 6.24, or 0.25 percent, at 2,442.40.
In corporate news, Boeing's fourth-quarter profit more than doubled amid broad strength in its commercial airplane and defense system businesses. Revenue climbed 26 percent to $17.5 billion (Ђ13.51 billion), coming in well ahead of Wall Street's forecast.