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NEW YORK — Stocks traded in a tight range after insurer American International Group Inc. reported a larger than expected fourth-quarter loss.
AIG’s news overshadowed a Commerce Department report that the nation’s economy grew at a faster pace than initially estimated for the end of 2009. The government said gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 5.9 percent, above the 5.7 percent previous estimate.
The stronger growth from the third quarter to the fourth quarter was welcome news but analysts say much of the gain is tied to businesses rebuilding inventories. Growth is expected to slow in the coming quarters.
The report from AIG brought a reminder of the strains that still exist in the financial system. AIG said it lost $8.87 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009. That’s improved from a year earlier but weaker than analysts expected. The stock fell more than 7 percent.
Not all the news was downbeat. Private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners said it would acquire the parent of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. The offer for CKE Restaurants Inc. totals $619 million in cash and $309 million in debt. Analysts like to see takeovers because it is a sign of confidence in the economy. CKE stock jumped 25 percent.
The mixed reports did little to add to investors’ understanding of the direction of the economy. Major stock indexes have logged modest moves since the start of the year because there is disagreement over the pace of recovery. This week stocks have fallen, jumped and slid again as worries about the economy intensified and eased.
In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.63, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,324.66. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.20, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,102.73, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 2.99, or 0.1 percent, to 2,231.23.
Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.63 percent from 3.64 percent late Thursday.
The dollar slipped against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Crude oil rose 51 cents to $78.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.