US stock markets opened slightly higher Tuesday, dampened by a weaker-than-expected factory activity in the New York region, adding to signs the world`s largest economy is faltering. Traders are back on Wall Street after a long President`s Day weekend. But the opening was muted, as expected, after Empire State Manufacturing gauge came in below the consensus forecast for February. Apparently, this is another rough month for the US manufacturing sector, where business conditions only improved marginally in the biggest regional economy in the US. As of 09:47 a.m. in New York: - Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.12% at 16,134.49; 14 shares up, 16 shares down - Standard & Poor`s 500 rose 0.18% to 1,841.63; driven by health care and utilities shares. - NASDAQ Composite rose 0.14% to 4,250.48 Earlier today, the New York's Federal Reserve said the Empire State manufacturing survey declined to 4.48 in February from 12.51 in January. Analysts had expected a drop to 8.5. The report also offered some mixed signals over different business dimentions this month: - Prices paid declined to 25 from 36.59 in February. - New orders fell to -0.21 against 10.98 last month. - Employment also dropped to 11.25 from 12.2. - Inventories dropped to -5 from 2.44. - An index for general business conditions for the next six months increased to 38.99 from 37.51. The dollar extended losses against six-currency basket after the poor US data, with the USDIX slipping around 80.04 from 80.20, after hitting an intraday high of 80.25 and low of 79.99.