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Stocks tick higher in quiet start after days of big moves

U.S. stocks are slightly higher in Wednesday morning as utility companies climb. Energy companies are trading lower as the price of oil continues to slip. Stocks are at their lowest levels in two months after large losses in two of the last three days.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,097 as of 10:05 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,132. The Nasdaq composite climbed 23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,178. Stocks took big losses Friday and Tuesday, separated by a big gain on Monday. Investors have sent stocks in different directions as they wonder if the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week, and they’re also speculating about the health of the global economy.

PLANT A SEED: After four months of public negotiations, seed and weedkiller maker Monsanto agreed to be bought by German drug and farm chemical company Bayer. Bayer’s latest offer is worth about $57 billion in cash. Bayer makes a wide range of crop protection chemicals that kill weeds, bugs and fungus, while Monsanto is known for its seeds business and the weedkiller Glyphosate. It rose 64 cents to $106.74 Wednesday.

BONDS: Bond prices changed direction again, and yields fell as prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.69 percent. A day ago it jumped to 1.73 percent, the highest in almost three months.

EARLY GAINERS: Utility companies rose the most. Consolidated Edison added $1.06, or 1.4 percent, to $74.29 and Duke Energy gained 52 cents to $79.31. Apple continued to trade higher. It was one of the biggest gainers on the S&P 500 Tuesday after T-Mobile said it’s getting strong preorders for the new iPhones. The stock picked up $2.75, or 2.5 percent, to $110.69. Facebook added $1.21, or 1 percent, to $128.43.

OIL: Benchmark New York crude lost 56 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $44.34 a barrel in New York. The international standard, Brent crude, fell 63 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $46.47 a barrel in London. U.S. crude prices fell 3 percent Tuesday and energy companies continued to fall Wednesday. Chevron gave up 62 cents to $98.81 and Marathon Oil lost 16 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $14.18.

NO FIESTA: Ford dipped 12 cents, or 1 percent, to $12.26 after it said its pretax profit will fall this year. Ford also said its results will weaken further in 2017 as the company invests more money in electric and autonomous cars, among other areas, and costs rise. The automaker expects results to start improving in 2018.

LIVELY: Dermatology drug developer Vitae Pharmaceuticals soared to $20.90 after it agreed to be bought by Allergan, the maker of Botox. The deal values Vitae at $21 per share, or $606 million. Vitae, which doesn’t have any approved products, closed at $8.10 on Tuesday. Allergan rose $4.02, or 1.7 percent, to $244.12.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 102.61yen from 102.72 yen. The euro rose to $1.1238 from $1.1208.

OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX was little changed and the CAC 40 in France fell 0.6 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.2 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.7 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.1 percent. South Korean markets were closed for a national holiday.

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