Stock Market Today: Stocks Cling to Gains, Bolstered by Financials

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock indices were clinging onto their hard-fought gains in early afternoon trading on Wednesday after investors digested negative geopolitical and economic news and speculation of an earlier-than-expected interest rate hike.

Half of the key sectors were rising, with financials, energy and basic materials leading the pack, as Bank of America (BAC) declared a dividend hike.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading up 0.24% to 16,468.20. The S&P 500 was rising 0.15% to 1,923.02. The Nasdaq was ticking up 0.34% to 4,367.59. U.S. stocks on Tuesday finished at session lows after being pressured by a ramp-up of tensions in Ukraine.

A handful of top corporate headlines were crossing the wires Wednesday. Bank of America was charging 1.5% higher to $15.23 after the company increased its quarterly common stock dividend to 5 cents a share from 1 cent. Time Warner (TWX) shares were tumbling 12.84% to $74.25 Wednesday as Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox (FOXA) withdrew its $80 billion cash-and-stock acquisition offer. Fox on the other hand was popping 5.14% to $32.91. 

Factory orders have been suffering in Europe's largest economy, a situation that Berlin's Economics Ministry blames on geopolitical developments and risks. These factors have led to a "certain holding back" on orders.

Elsewhere, the eurozone's third-largest economy, Italy, slumped back into a recession during the second quarter. GDP was down 0.2% from the first quarter.

News that Russia has amassed 20,000 combat-ready troops -- reportedly special forces as well as troops with armor, artillery and air defense capabilities -- on its eastern border with Ukraine raised concerns about imminent military intervention Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Richard Fisher told Fox Business Network Tuesday evening that the central bank could hike interest rates earlier than the widely expected mid-2015 target if U.S. economic data continue to strengthen.

The Census Bureau reported on Wednesday that the U.S. trade deficit shrank to $41.5 billion in June, compared with the average estimate of $45.2 billion.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

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