Stocks stage late rally and finish flat

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market rallied in the last half-hour Tuesday, seizing on reports that suggested the unraveling Greek debt talks might be saved after all. Stocks finished flat after languishing in the red for most of the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 4.24 points to close at 12,878.28, about 12 points shy of its best finish this year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 1.27 points to close at 1,350.50. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.44 point to 2,931.83.

As usual, it was about Greece. U.S. stocks were weighed down as European finance chiefs canceled a meeting planned for Wednesday to discuss a second international bailout for the country.

The meeting was called off after Athens failed to deliver on several demands made by its partners in the euro currency union. Greece needs a 130 billion euro bailout by March 20 to avoid a default that could rattle the world financial system.

Stocks in the U.S. were also hurt by a discouraging report on retail sales. Bank of America led the Dow lower, dropping 3.3 percent.

The Dow was down as much as 87 points at its low for the day. But the market found hope in reports quoting Greek government officials as saying party leaders would promise by Wednesday to implement deep spending cuts and other reforms.

Declining stocks still outnumbered advancing stocks by about 2-to-1. Volume was light at about 3.8 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

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