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Higher prices at the pump helped spur consumer prices to their biggest jump since September, raising fears that inflation could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than some hope. Nevertheless, news that the 2% payroll tax holiday could get extended through the rest of 2012 helped push stocks slightly higher, as the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) added to yesterday's big gains by rising another 25 points to 12,929 at about 10:45 a.m. EST.
Among Dow stocks, 3M (NYSE: MMM ) was up about 0.2%. Last night, the manufacturing conglomerate said that it would add between $800 million and $1 billion to bolster its global pension plan, which is only funded at an 82% level. 3M is one of many companies that face pension pressure from falling interest rates, but it's good to see the company taking action sooner rather than later to address the problem.
Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) fell slightly after the FDA said that it would not reduce its acceptable levels for carbendazim. Last month, Coke said that it found traces of the fungicide both in its orange juice as well as juice from rival PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) . Pepsi said that it had shifted its orange sourcing for its Tropicana Pure Premium juice back to Florida.
Finally, energy stocks Chevron and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) were both down about 0.3%. With oil trading at about $103 per barrel and the CPI report pointing to a big increase in gasoline prices, calls for the possibility of $5 gasoline prices this summer have some wondering if the economic recovery could survive another energy-cost shock.
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