NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major market averages edged higher Tuesday, weighed by blue-chip technology stocks, after investors digested auto sales figures and commodities made sharp gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher by 2 points, or 0.02%, to 10,406. The S&P 500 gained 3 points, or 0.2%, to 1118 and the Nasdaq finished higher by 7 points, or 0.3%, to 2281. >>Apple, H-P: Top Computer-Hardware Stocks Stocks traded in the green for much of the session, but investors took profits late in the afternoon. Big tech names, including Microsoft ( MSFT), Intel ( INTC), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and IBM ( IBM), dragged on the Dow more than stocks in most other sectors by the end of the day. Market observers took in a range of car sales numbers throughout the day. Overall industry sales landed in-line with expectations, coming to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 10.38 million units, according to Autodata.
General Motors said February U.S. auto sales rose 11.5% year over year. The company also said it would recall 1.3 million cars to fix a power-steering problem and earlier in the session announced it would triple funding for the turnaround of its Opel and Vauxhall divisions in Europe to 1.9 billion euros ($2.57 billion). Shares of Ford ( F) slipped 19 cents, or 1.5%, to $12.22 by the closing bell. Still, the automaker surpassed GM on a 43% surge in February sales. Snowstorms and recalls hurt Toyota ( TM) sales, which slid 9%. But Toyota shares added 78 cents, or 1.1%, to $74.42. Elsewhere, Honda ( HMC) shares slipped 10 cents, or 0.3%, to $34.87 and Daimler AG ( DAI) advanced by 57 cents, or 1.3%, to $42.96 after each reported improving February sales. The dollar turned lower against a basket of currencies in the afternoon, with the dollar index down by 0.2%. In commodities markets, crude oil for April delivery traded 98 cents higher to settle at $79.68 a barrel, and the April gold contract gained $19.10 to settle at $1,137.40 an ounce. The upbeat commodity moves likely lent a hand to material and energy stocks, as the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector Index improved 2.4% and 1.4%, respectively.
After the close, the American Petroleum Institute said crude stockpiles rose by 2.67 million barrels last week, according to Bloomberg. A survey by Platts showed analysts expected a smaller 1.1 million barrel build. The Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release its inventory figures Wednesday morning. Financial and telecom stocks also saw some strength, as the KBW Bank Index rose 0.7% and the Nasdaq Telecom Index rose 1.4%. Ford shares saw the highest volume on the New York Stock Exchange, followed by Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C). The NYSE had a listed volume of over 4.1 billion, and volume on the Dow was 217.1 million, compared with an average of 200.4 million. Qualcomm ( QCOM) saw heavy trading on the Nasdaq Tuesday. Late Monday, Qualcomm's board raised its dividend 2 cents to 19 cents and approved a new $3 billion stock buyback plan. Shares surged 6.7% to $37.93. UBS analyst Maynard Um said the dividend increase was higher than expected and raises the current dividend yield to 2.1%. Also contributing the day's gains, European leaders continued to urge Greece to enact steep measures aimed at reducing its debt, strengthening signs that the country's weakness would be contained. Senators appear to be finalizing legislation aimed at overhauling
financial regulation that could include the creation of a consumer-protection division under the Federal Reserve. Shares of Terra Industries ( TRA) traded ahead by $4.47, or 10.9%, to $45.67 after CF Industries ( CF) offered to pick up the company for a more than the $4.1 billion bid from Yara International. CIT ( CIT) warned that it expects to record a $900 million loss in the fourth quarter. In earnings news, office products retailer Staples ( SPLS) said its fourth-quarter profit fell 18% on lawsuit- and restructuring-related charges. Shares lost $2.61, or 10.1%, to $23.25. Shares of Boyd Gaming ( BYD) traded 6.5% higher after the company narrowed its loss in the fourth quarter. Auto-parts retailer AutoZone ( AZO) topped analysts' estimates with second-quarter net income that rose 6.4% year over year. But the stock fell $1.26, or 0.8%, to $164.74. After the bell, Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY) named current chief operating officer Lamberto Andreotti as its new chief executive officer beginning in May. The benchmark 10-year Treasury weakened 1/32, strengthening the yield to 3.610%. Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.7%, and Japan's Nikkei gained 0.5%. The FTSE in London added 1.5%, and the DAX in Frankfurt advanced 1.1%. --Written by Melinda Peer and Sung Moss in New York.