NEW YORK — Stock indexes were mixed in morning trading Tuesday after the previous day's big declines. Strong participation from buyers at a bond sale backing Europe's bailout fund and at an auction of Spanish government debt helped reassure investors.
Spain was able to sell short-term debt at much lower interest rates compared with a month ago, a signal that markets are becoming less fearful about the government's ability to repay its debt.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20 points, or 0.2 percent to 12,040 as of 11 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow sank 162 points the day before after Moody's and Fitch said the fiscal agreement reached last week among European leaders fell far short of what was needed to contain that region's debt crisis.
Energy and materials stocks led the market higher. Chevron Corp. rose 1.5 percent. Airplane maker Boeing Co. rose 1.6 percent, the most of the 30 Dow stocks.
The Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose for the sixth straight month in November. Sales increased just 0.2 percent, below what analysts had expected. But the government also revised the previous month's slightly higher. That was the encouraging part, said Tim Hoyle, director of research at Haverford Investments. "It reassures you that the economy is going in the right direction," Hoyle said.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,240. Energy companies made the largest gains in early trading as crude oil rose back above $100.
The Nasdaq composite lost less than 1 point to 2,611.
The Vix, a measure of stock market volatility, fell to 23 and has now dropped 14 percent in December. The index remained above 30 from early August until last week. Hoyle said a sustained fall in the Vix usually is followed by a rise in stock prices. The recent trend "sets us up for a little Santa Claus rally between now and the end of the year."
Urban Outfitters jumped 5 percent, the most in the S&P 500 index, after the retailer said its sales were rising faster than analysts were expecting. The Philadelphia-based company owns Urban Outfitters stores, Anthropologie and Free People.
Electronics retailer Best Buy plunged 12 percent. The company said its third-quarter income sank 29 percent as it cut prices on tablets and TVs to drive sales and traffic during the busy holiday season.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.04 percent from 2.02 percent as demand for ultra-safe investments ebbed.