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May 16, 2012 at 1:44 PM
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Early stock gains fading Wednesday

NEW YORK, May 16 (UPI) -- U.S. stock market gains were fading Wednesday as worries over the Greek economy continue to shake investor confidence.

Talks to create a coalition government in Athens have failed, forcing Greek President Karolos Papoulias to appoint a caretaker government that would hold the reins until mid-June, when a second national election would take place.

In Washington, the Commerce Department said housing starts rose 2.6 percent in April, but permits issued, which predicts future construction projects, were down 7 percent in the month compared to March.

In early afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 5.15 points, or 0.04 percent, to 12,637.15 The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index turned from positive to negative with the index down 5.05 points or 0.17 percent, to 2,888.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 0.53 points, 0.04 percent, to 1,330.13.

The benchmark 10-year treasury note fell 3/32 to yield 1.785 percent.

The euro fell to $1.2729 from Tuesday's $1.273. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 80.28 yen from Tuesday's 80.19 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index fell 1.12 percent, 99.57, to 8,801.17.

In London, the FTSE fell 0.6 percent, 32.37, to 5,405.25.

Canadian manufacturing sales advance

OTTAWA, May 16 (UPI) -- Petroleum and coal helped Canadian manufacturing sales advance 1.9 percent to 49.7 billion in March, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

"Sales of petroleum and coal products increased 4.5 percent to $7.5 billion, the highest level since July 2008," the report said. "The increase was largely the result of higher sales volumes at many oil refineries."

Similarly, the chemical industry reported a higher volume of sales, which were up 3.2 percent to $3.9 billion on a monthly basis in March, StatsCan said.

The largest gain by percentage was the aerospace product and parts industry, which increased 9.9 percent to $1.4 billion.

Overall, sales increased in 13 of 21 industry sectors that represented 75 percent of all manufacturing sales. Of the other eight sectors, "most declines were relatively small," the agency said.

Home construction starts rose in April

WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- New home construction starts in the United States rose in April, but permits that predict future business fell, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000, up 2.6 percent compared with a revised figure for March of 699,000.

The rate of single-family housing starts in the month was 492,000, which was 2.3 percent above the revised annual rate for March of 481,000.

For multiple-unit housing starts -- projects with five or more living units -- the annual rate in March came to 217,000.

Permits issued for privately owned housing units dropped 7 percent in April to an annual rate of 715,000. A year earlier in April, the annual rate for permits issued stood at 578,000. The new rate is a 23.7 percent climb over the rate 12 months prior.

Permits issued are an indicator of what direction construction starts might take one or two months down the road.

Completed housing projects in April were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 651,000, which is 10 percent above the revised figure for March, estimated at 592,000 units, and 20.1 percent above April 2011 when 542,000 housing completions were posted.

Eurozone CPI at 2.6 percent

BRUSSELS, May 16 (UPI) -- The 12-month consumer price index in the 17-member eurozone rose 2.6 percent in April, the European Union's data office said Wednesday.

The inflation rate is 0.1 percentage points lower than March, Eurostat said.

For the 27-member European Union, the annual rate of inflation in April was slightly higher at 2.7 percent.

Sweden, where prices were up 1 percent, reported the lowest rate of inflation. Prices rose 1.5 percent in Greece, while Ireland and Romania both reported 1.9 percent increases.

The highest inflation rates were posted in Estonia, where prices are rising 4.8 percent on an annual basis, Hungary, with prices up 4.4 percent, and Slovakia with prices up 4.2 percent.

Inflation across the eurozone on an annual basis was pushed by a 4.7 percent rise in alcohol and tobacco prices. Transportation prices rose 4.3 percent and housing prices rose 3.9 percent.

On a monthly basis, prices rose 2.3 percent for apparel, 0.8 percent for transportation, 0.6 percent for hotels and restaurants. Prices dropped on a monthly basis for communications (down 0.7 percent), education (down 0.2 percent) and food, where prices held steady.

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