Dow Jones dips amid mixed day for stocks

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 23.99 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 16,130.40 Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,840.76. The Nasdaq composite rose 28.76 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,272.78.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery closed up $2.13 to $102.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $3 a gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to $3.04 a gallon. Natural gas gained 34 cents to $5.55 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose $1.28 to $110.46 barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Drop in North American sales hurts Coca-Cola profit

Coca-Cola’s fourth-quarter profit fell as the world’s biggest beverage maker once again sold less soda in North America.

The beverage maker said Tuesday that sales volume declined 1 percent in North America, which included a 3 percent decline in soda. Last week, PepsiCo also said its soda volume slipped.

Although Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are tapping emerging markets for growth and sell a wide array of beverages, pressure is mounting for the two companies to figure out how to get soda sales moving in the right direction at home.

Americans have been cutting back on soda for years amid health concerns and as beverage aisles have grown increasingly crowded with other options.

Homebuilders’ confidence drops along with snowfall

U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market declined sharply this month as the severe weather battering much of the nation keeps many would-be buyers at home. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday slid to 46. That’s down from January’s reading of 56 and is the lowest level since May. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

Foreign buyers increase their Treasury holdings

Foreign buyers of U.S. Treasury securities increased their holdings to a record in December even though the two largest holders of U.S. government debt – China and Japan – reduced their shares. The Treasury Department says total foreign holdings rose 1.4 percent in December to $5.79 trillion, surpassing the old record set in March of $5.73 trillion. China, the largest foreign buyer of Treasury debt, reduced its holdings to $1.27 trillion in December. That marked a 3.6 percent drop from China’s November level of $1.32 trillion, a record for that country. Japan, the second-largest buyer, trimmed its holdings to $1.18 trillion in December. That was down 0.3 percent from November’s total, a record for Japan.

– From news service reports