Stocks turned slightly higher Tuesday afternoon following a choppy morning, influenced by record oil and gas prices, concerns about first-quarter financial results, rising inflation and upbeat earnings from Dow component Johnson & Johnson.
In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 20.27, or 0.16 percent, to 12,322.33.
Broader stock indicators also turned higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.60, or 0.12 percent, to 1,329.92, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 2.98, or 0.13 percent, to 2,278.80.
Wall Street remained anxious about inflation, as crude oil prices soared to a record near $114 a barrel, after the Labor Department's Producer Price Index reported a higher-than-anticipated 1.1 percent rise for March.
The core PPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2 percent in line with estimates. Core PPI rose 0.5 percent last month.
Stocks declined Monday as Wachovia's weak quarterly report overshadowed any relief over a better-than-expected March retail sales report. Stocks swayed on both sides of unchanged Tuesday morning, before inching higher in the afternoon.
In earnings news, Johnson & Johnson, the maker of drugs and healthcare products, reported higher quarterly sales and earnings that topped estimates. J & J shares were recently down 30 cents to $65.44.
US Bancorp, the sixth-largest U.S. bank, announced weaker earnings and higher sales, all of which topped forecasts. The bank attributed its weak results to the mortgage market crisis, but said its credit problems were manageable. Shares were up 23 cents to $31.90.
State Street reported higher quarterly sales and earnings that were higher than analyst estimates, with their financial services firm seeing growth across almost all of its businesses. State Street shares were down $6.41 to $70.45