NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are moving higher in early trading as the price of oil steadies near six-year lows. European markets also pushed higher on Wednesday after weak inflation figures for the region raised speculation of further help from the European Central Bank.
KEEPING SCORE: All three major U.S. indexes climbed more than 1 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 21 points to 2,023, as of 10:09 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 177 points to 17,549, and the Nasdaq composite climbed 50 points to 4,642.
ECONOMY WATCH: U.S. businesses increased hiring last month in the latest sign that the U.S. economy is on steady footing, despite concerns about global growth. The payroll processor ADP reported that companies added 241,000 workers in December, up from 227,000 in November.
Later in the day, the Federal Reserve will release details from its December interest-rate meeting. After last month’s meeting, the Fed said it will be “patient” in deciding when to raise interest rates.
ABROAD: Major markets in Europe also climbed higher for the first time this week. Germany’s DAX was up 1 percent and France’s CAC-40 rose 1.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 advanced 1.2 percent.
PRICES: Consumer prices in Europe fell in December for the first time since 2009. The 0.2 percent drop was mainly due to a slump in global oil prices, something that could help consumers immediately. The drop puts pressure on the European Central Bank to provide more stimulus. Many analysts expect the bank to start buying government bonds, possibly as soon as this month. The euro fell to $1.1834 from $1.1890.
CRUDE: Oil prices remain in focus following sharp drops recorded over the past few months. On Wednesday, the price of oil stabilized after nearing a six-year low. U.S. crude oil rose $1.12 to $49.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude has fallen by more than half since June as demand weakened and supplies rose. Lower energy costs are a boon to consumers and businesses, but there is also concern the plunge is a sign of weakness in the world economy.
MOVING: J.C. Penney soared $1.36, or 21 percent, to $7.94 after the beleaguered retail store posted solid sales late Tuesday. For the nine-week holiday shopping season, the company reported sales growth of 3.7 percent over the same period in 2013.
BETTER, BUT: Eli Lilly predicted increased revenue and earnings this year as it tries to recover from the loss of patents protecting key drugs. But the forecast fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. The company’s stock fell 92 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $68.80.
ASIA’S DAY: Earlier, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 ended flat, while Seoul’s Kospi edged up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.8 percent, and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7 percent.