Stocks little changed in Thursday trading
NEW YORK (AP) — After three straight losing sessions, the best the stock market could muster Thursday was a narrowly mixed finish. For the week so far, the key averages are down 1.9 to 2.8 percent.
The Dow finished down nearly 19 points to 13,326. The S&P 500 added a fraction to 1,433. The Nasdaq fell 2 points to 3,049.
The Labor Department said that weekly applications for unemployment aid fell to their lowest level since February 2008, before the financial crisis, and when the unemployment rate was much lower — 4.9 percent, compared with today's 7.8 percent.
Citi analysts upgraded U.S. stocks to the equivalent of buy. The analysts argued that stocks are relatively cheap and that central banks seem likely to take more steps to try to boost the economy.
Asia stocks mixed
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed today after U.S. jobless claims plummeted unexpectedly, with analysts saying more data was needed to confirm an actual improvement in the world's No. 1 economy.
The U.S. government says weekly applications for unemployment aid fell to their lowest since February 2008.
Still, the job news isn't all that strong. Unemployment is much higher than before the financial crisis. In February 2008, the rate stood at 4.9 percent.
Other economic developments Thursday hurt investment sentiment.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported that foreign demand declined for American-made cars and farm goods. German economic researchers predicted the country's growth would slow, and unemployment in Greece, one of the countries surviving on bailouts, hit a record high of just more than 25 percent.
Benchmark crude oil rose, hovering above $92 per barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and was unchanged against the yen.
Business events scheduled for today
WASHINGTON (AP) — On today's economic calendar is a key gauge of inflation at the wholesale level. The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for September, with analysts looking for an increase of about 0.8 percent.
Earnings are due from banking giant JPMorgan Chase as well as Wells Fargo.
IMF, World Bank chiefs urge focus on fair growth
TOKYO (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund says sacrificing growth for the sake of austerity could put the entire world economy in jeopardy.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde also warned against backsliding on reforms needed to prevent future financial crises, in remarks today to global financial leaders meeting in Tokyo at the IMF and World Bank annual meeting.
She also called for medium-term work to bring down debt levels and urgent action to get the unemployed back to work.
The IMF has scaled back its global growth forecast for 2012 to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent, and has warned that even its dimmer outlook might prove too optimistic if Europe and the United States fail to resolve their crises.
Moody's Analytics sees stronger US economy ahead
NEW YORK (AP) — Moody's Analytics' chief economist thinks the U.S. economy could revive next year and cause the pace of growth to roughly double from its current rate by 2014 -- unless Washington runs right over the "fiscal cliff" next year.
In a report out Thursday, Mark Zandi said hiring and economic growth should get stronger next year. And by 2014 the economy will be adding more than 250,000 jobs a month and nearing a growth rate of 4 percent.
By contrast the economy expanded at a 1.3 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, and most economists expect it will remain below 2 percent for the rest of this year. The government's most recent jobs report showed employers added a modest 114,000 workers to their payrolls last month.
Zandi's brighter outlook for the next two years assumes Congress and the White House tackle "fiscal issues," he writes. In other words it will take Republicans and Democrats finding ways to avoid the collection of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of the year. If they don't, the Congressional Budget Office and many economists say the result would likely knock the economy into a recession.
Moody's report says uncertainty over that danger is weighing on businesses. According to the Moody's Analytics Business Confidence Survey, the top concern is "the wave of tax increases set to take effect at the end of the year as part of the fiscal cliff."
IPO market shows signs of life with 4 big gains
NEW YORK (AP) — The IPO market looked robust Thursday. Shares of four newly public companies each shooting up more than 20 percent in their first day of trading.
All of the companies saw strong demand. They are Realogy, the owner of realty firms Century 21, Coldwell Banker and Corcoran Group; online stock photo provider Shutterstock; Kythera, a developer of shots to treat double chins; and Intercept Pharmaceuticals, which develops drugs for liver diseases. The companies raised more money in their initial public stock offerings than they predicted.
The flop of Facebook's IPO in May had weighed on the amount of money companies were able to raise throughout summer. About 70 percent of companies that went public since late July, including four of last week's six IPOs, have priced at the bottom or below the levels they had expected, according to IPO investment and research firm Renaissance Capital.
A number of other prominent IPOs were canceled, including arcade and restaurant chain Dave & Buster's Entertainment earlier this month and CKE, the owner of the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain, in August.
Sprint confirms talks with Softbank
NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint Nextel is considering a future where it is controlled by a Japan-based firm. It says cellphone company Softbank is in talks about making a potential substantial investment in the U.S. company.
Sprint, the third-largest cellphone company in the U.S., said the deal could be big enough to involve a "change of control" of the company. It didn't provide any other details.
The news sent Sprint shares to the highest level in over four years.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the talks, had reported earlier that the potential deal would help Softbank expand outside of Japan. It put the value of the transaction at more than $12.8 billion.
The jump in Sprint shares comes on top of a powerful-run up this year. Sprint's share price has more than doubled, as investors are now more comfortable that the cost of a network revamp and the addition of the expensive iPhone to Sprint's lineup won't bankrupt the company.
Court sides with Samsung in dispute with Apple
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court has sided with Samsung in one part of an ongoing patent dispute with Apple.
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a judge's order blocking Samsung from selling its Galaxy Nexus smart phone pending a patent lawsuit by Apple.
Apple accuses Samsung of stealing its smartphone and tablet computer technology.
A jury in September agreed with the company and ordered Samsung to pay $1 billion. Samsung has moved to set the judgment aside.
In its Thursday ruling, the appeals court said Apple had failed to show that any of the patent violations it accused Samsung of in regards to the Galaxy would immediately and irreparably hurt its own smart phone sales. It said a judge abused her discretion in granting Apple a preliminary injunction earlier this year.
The latest decision allows Samsung to continue selling the Galaxy Nexus.
Carl Icahn plans to offer $3B to buy Oshkosh
NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire investor Carl Icahn plans to make an unsolicited bid for truck maker Oshkosh. The offer would value the company at almost $3 billion. Icahn says he also plans to nominate his own slate of directors in a bid for control of the company.
The activist investor says he will make a tender offer worth $32.50 per share in cash, a 21 percent premium over Oshkosh's latest closing price.
Icahn had sought seats on the board unsuccessfully last year. He said management has taken a passive attitude toward the company's future and wants it to be more active. He said he already owns about a 10 percent stake in the company.
Oshkosh asked its shareholders to take no action on the offer until the board reviews it. The company said its board will advise shareholders of its position within 10 business days.
The Wisconsin-based manufacturer makes everything from fire and emergency vehicles to commercial equipment like cement mixers and natural gas tankers.
Mailing a letter to cost a penny more next year
WASHINGTON (AP) — It'll cost another penny to mail a letter next year.
The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service says it will raise postage rates on Jan. 27, including a 1-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.
It also will introduce a new global forever stamp, allowing customers to mail letters anywhere in the world for one set price of $1.10.
Under the law, the post office cannot raise prices more than the rate of inflation, or 2.6 percent. The mail agency, which expects to lose a record $15 billion this year, has asked Congress to give it new authority to raise stamp prices by 5 cents, but the House has yet to act.
The Postal Service also will increase rates on priority mail shipping, by 4 percent.
United Airlines retreats, drops airfare increase
DALLAS (AP) — The latest attempt by airlines to raise fares has collapsed.
United Airlines said Thursday that it rolled back an increase of $4 to $10 per round trip on many U.S. routes. Delta Air Lines, which had matched the price hike that United started on Tuesday night, dropped prices back earlier Thursday.
J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said the increase unraveled because it gained only limited support from a few other carriers -- American, Alaska and US Airways. He said airlines have tried 12 fare hikes this year but only four have succeeded.
Airlines often abandon price increases when key competitors such as Southwest Airlines don't match them, because consumers will change airlines for even a few dollars in savings.
KBR gets Army logistics contract
HOUSTON (AP) — Defense contractor KBR Inc. says it has been picked as one of the main contractors on a project that gets Army equipment ready for deployment.
KBR says the work will be done at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., and in Afghanistan and Kuwait. The first task orders are expected after Oct. 15.
KBR says that as the prime contractor, it will be able to bid on individual task orders from the Army. The contract replaces another Army contract and consolidates several other supply and logistics contracts for the Army. The ceiling for the whole program is $23.5 billion over five years.
KBR does engineering and construction work and provides services for defense as well as government and utility customers.
VIDEO GAME SALES
US video game sales fall 24 percent in September
LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. retail sales of new video-game hardware, software and accessories fell 24 percent in September.
It marked the 10th-consecutive month of declining sales as the gaming world holds off buying ahead of the release of Nintendo's Wii U console next month
Research firm NPD Group says that sales fell to $848 million from $1.11 billion a year earlier.
Sales of video games themselves, excluding PC titles, fell 18 percent to $497.4 million. Sales of hardware such as the Xbox 360 fell 39 percent to $210.9 million, and accessories sales fell 11 percent to $139.9 million.
The best-selling title of the month was Electronic Arts' "Madden NFL 13," followed by Take 2 Interactive's "Borderlands 2" and EA's "FIFA Soccer 13."