U.S. Stocks Open Ahead On Benign April Inflation Data

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock indexes started out higher Wednesday, gaining after the government reported tame inflation data for April that calmed worries about whether climbing costs would curb consumer spending.

The consumer price index report prompted stock futures to shed modest losses ahead of Wall Street's open, with the Labor Department crediting lower energy costs in helping offset the rising price of food.

"Gasoline down 2% seems a little odd. But it's a decent number. It's a combination of both productivity growth and lower wages that helped bring that number down," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.86 points to 12,888.04 in early action.

The S&P 500 gained 6.66 points to 1,409.7, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 8.2 points to 2,503.32.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures fell 67 cents to $125.13 a barrel.

Following a series of Federal Reserve speakers on Tuesday, former Fed chief Alan Greenspan told an audience in Asia that U.S. housing prices would bottom out early next year as the market absorbs a buildup in inventories.

On Wednesday, U.S. equities ended mixed, with the blue chips hit by a cautious second-quarter outlook from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and by Hewlett-Packard Co. moving to acquire Electronic Data Systems .

The technology sector, however, drew a late-session lift on reports that billionaire Carl Icahn had acquired a significant stake in Yahoo Inc. , potentially in an attempt to force a sale of the Internet search company, which rebuffed would-be acquirer Microsoft Corp. recently.

Overseas, markets were split, with a 1.2% rise in Tokyo, a slight fall in Hong Kong and bourses in Europe turning in a mixed performance.

By Kate Gibson