Published: Apr 07, 2010 11:52 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell in early trading Wednesday as market momentum continued to slow and new concerns surfaced about Greece's debt crisis.

The Dow Jones industrials remained just below 11,000 for a third day. The Dow hasn't crossed that level in 18 months.

No major economic reports were due out Wednesday, but investors were watching out for the results due in the early afternoon from an auction of 10-year Treasury notes. European markets were lower on worries about Greece.

Greece's borrowing costs remained high Tuesday and its stock market fell as the country's finance minister sought advice from an International Monetary Fund team on how to speed up fiscal reforms.

The Dow has been flirting with the 11,000 level all week, but has yet to top the psychological barrier. It came within 12 points both Monday and Tuesday but ended just below there on both days.

In early trading Wednesday, the Dow fell 19.80, or 0.2 percent, to 10,950.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.51, or 0.1 percent, to 1,187.92, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 2.88, or 0.1 percent, to 2,433.93.

The government is auctioning $21 billion in 10-year notes Wednesday. The 10-year note is used as a benchmark for many consumer loans. Bond yields have been rising in recent weeks, which has pushed interest rates higher.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite to its price, rose to 3.97 percent from 3.96 percent late Tuesday. On Monday, its yield climbed above 4 percent for only the second time since October 2008.

Rising rates have yet to have much effect on stocks. But if rates rise too fast, it could slow the economic recovery, which would put a damper on stocks. The Mortgage Bankers Association said the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages surged to 5.31 percent last week from 5.04 percent a week earlier.

Stocks have been on a nearly unbroken climb for 13 months. The past two months' gains have come mostly from steady, more modest moves, and not the triple-digit gains that were common early in the market's recovery. Recent momentum is due primarily to a string of economic reports showing the economy is improving, albeit slowly.

The Dow hit its highest level of the day Tuesday after the Federal Reserve's interest rate-setting committee released the minutes from its March meeting. Investors welcomed the comments that showed the Fed is upbeat about economic growth.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to give a speech later Wednesday on ongoing economic challenges. Investors will probably look for any new clues in the speech about when the Fed might have to raise interest rates to keep inflation in check as the economy recovers.

The dollar rose against other major currencies. Gold rose slightly, while oil fell.

European markets fell. Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.4 percent. Investors worry that debt problems in Greece and other European countries could upend a global economic recovery.

Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.1 percent. Japan's central bank said it would hold its key interest rate steady, and it sees a recovery taking hold. Asian shares also rose after the World Bank boosted its growth forecast for developing economies in East Asia.