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Associated Press

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 4:02 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 16 at 4:02 AM

WALL STREET

Stocks coming of three straight losing sessions

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is building a bit of a losing streak, seeing three straight declining sessions.

Weak earnings forecasts from retailers, including Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, helped dampen any enthusiasm Thursday.

The Dow wavered between small gains and losses shortly after the opening bell, before moving lower at midmorning. It closed with a loss of 29 points at 12,542.

The S&P 500 index fell two points and starts the day at 1,353. The Nasdaq fell 10 to 2,837.

Stocks have fallen steadily since voters returned President Barack Obama and a divided Congress to power. The Dow has lost 5 percent from Election Day, Nov. 6.

ASIAN STOCKS

Asian stocks mixed on U.S., Europe woes

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Friday after data showed Europe slipped back into recession and several big U.S. retailers disappointed investors with weak forecasts.

The European Union's statistics agency said Thursday that the combined economy of the 17 countries that use the euro contracted 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. Surveys pointing to difficult conditions ahead suggest the recession could deepen.

"Although unsurprising, data in Europe confirmed that the region fell back into recession, an outcome that will do little to ease tensions," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary.

THE DAY AHEAD

Major business events and economic events scheduled for Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve releases data on industrial production for October today.

September's figures show output at factories, mines and utilities rose 0.4 percent. That followed an August decline.

Manufacturing helped pull the economy out of the Great Recession, but the sector has slumped since the spring. Europe's debt crisis and slower growth in China and other emerging markets have hurt demand for American exports.

OIL PRICES

Oil prices flat as demand remains sluggish

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil prices swung between slight gains and losses Friday, barely budging despite an escalation in fighting between Israel and militants in Gaza, as demand for energy remains weak and supplies are ample.

Benchmark oil for December delivery was down 4 cents to $85.41 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped by 87 cents to finish at $85.45 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

Lingering fears that oil supplies could be disrupted if the Israel-Hamas conflict grows were kept in check by signs that the U.S. economy was struggling to maintain its momentum.

On Thursday, the government reported a rise in U.S. jobless claims and poor manufacturing data for the Philadelphia region.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-STATES

Administration extends healthcare deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is giving states another month to decide what role, if any, they'll play in carrying out the new health care law.

Instead of having to declare their intentions by Friday, states now have until Dec. 14. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (seh-BEEL'-yuhs) announced the extension in a letter Thursday evening to Republican governors who had requested more time.

Most states are still expected to announce their choices by Friday, but a check by The Associated Press found that 16 states are still mulling over their decisions.

That includes Florida where Gov. Rick Scott, long opposed the law, now says he wants to work with the Obama administration. New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are also in the undeclared column.

HOSTESS BRANDS-STRIKE

Hostess says liquidation decision expected Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — Hostess Brands says it will probably announce Friday morning whether it will liquidate its business, after assessing plant operations Thursday night.

The company had said it would file the motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court if striking employees didn't return to work by 5 p.m. Thursday. Such an action would mean a loss of about 18,000 jobs.

The maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But thousands of members in its second-biggest union went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Officials for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union say the company stopped contributing to workers' pensions last year.

BERNANKE-HOUSING

Bernanke: Banks' tight standards hurting economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (bur-NANG'-kee) says banks' overly tight lending standards may be holding back the U.S. economy by preventing creditworthy borrowers from buying homes.

Bernanke says some tightening of credit standards was needed after the 2008 financial crisis. But he says "the pendulum has swung too far the other way." He says some qualified borrowers are being prevented from getting home loans.

Bernanke comments to an audience in Atlanta came on a day when it was reported that average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to a record low of 3.34 percent. Rates have been low all year but have fallen further since the Federal Reserve started buying mortgage bonds in September to encourage more borrowing and spending.

SUPERSTORM-WIRELESS

Verizon, AT&T say cell network back up after Sandy

NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon and AT&T say their wireless networks are fully back up after Superstorm Sandy blew into the New York and New Jersey on Oct. 29.

Verizon Wireless says its network is at pre-storm levels, while AT&T Inc. says it's "pretty much back to normal."

Sprint Nextel says it still has some towers out because the companies that connect its cell towers to switching centers haven't completed their restoration efforts.

T-Mobile says its network has largely returned to normal.

NIKE-STOCK SPLIT

Nike boosts dividend, to split stock 2-for-1

BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) — Nike is boosting its dividend payment and planning a two-for-one stock split.

The Beaverton, Ore.-based company says both classes of its stock will split on Dec. 24. It expects its common stock to begin trading at the split-adjusted price on Dec. 26.

Companies split their stocks when they think the price of an individual share has gotten too expensive or if the stock is trading too far above similar companies' stock. The value of each shareholder's stake remains the same, with more stock owned at a lower price for each share.

Nike Inc.'s widely traded Class B stock closed at $90.83 Thursday.

The athletic shoe and clothing company also declared a 17 percent hike in its quarterly dividend to 21 cents per share.

EARNS-GAP

Gap raises outlook after stronger 3Q

NEW YORK (AP) — Gap Inc. is raising its outlook for the year after its third-quarter net income rose 60 percent from a year ago.

The San Francisco-based clothing retailer said stronger sales at its Banana Republic, Old Navy and namesake stores all contributed to the performance.

For the quarter, the company said it earned $308 million, or 63 cents per share. That's compared with $193 million, or 38 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Total revenue rose 8 percent to $3.86 billion.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 62 cents per share on revenue of $3.84 billion, according to FactSet.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 6 percent in North America. The figure is a key metric because it excludes the volatility of newly opened and closed locations.

GULF OIL SPILL-SETTLEMENT

AG Holder: Investigation of BP spill to continue

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the BP settlement is just the latest step in ongoing efforts to seek justice for the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Holder said at a news conference Thursday that the settlement isn't the end of federal authorities' efforts and that the criminal investigation is continuing.

BP PLC has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disaster, including nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines. Holder says much of the money will be used to restore the environment in the Gulf.

BP also said it would plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress. Three men who worked for BP have also been charged in indictments unsealed Thursday.

CHRYSLER-ADDING JOBS

Chrysler to add 1,250 jobs at Detroit-area plants

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler plans to add up to 1,250 jobs at three Detroit-area factories.

The company says it will invest $238 million at engine plants in Detroit and suburban Trenton, Mich., and add a third shift at a pickup truck factory in nearby Warren, Mich.

About 1,000 of the jobs will be at the Warren plant, which produces the redesigned Ram pickup.

The new hires would boost Chrysler's total employment to 63,450, including more than 41,000 in the U.S.

The hiring represents another step in Chrysler's comeback from its government-funded bankruptcy. It has hired 12,000 workers since leaving bankruptcy protection in 2009.

CHILE-SOLAR RACE

Solar cars roll across Earth's driest desert

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The second annual Solar Challenge is underway in Chile's Atacama desert.

Fifteen solar-powered cars rolled out of an old salt mine yesterday, embarking on an 800-mile race through the world's driest desert in the four-day, multinational race.

There are two categories: cars powered only by solar energy, and three-wheeled models that get a little help from pedals pushed by the drivers themselves.

The cars had to be built for less than $7,000, forcing their makers to be creative more than wealthy. Most of the teams represent university engineering departments.

The big finish comes Monday, and the winners get prizes of $30,000 in the solar category and $9,000 in the hybrid category.

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