US stocks rise, boosted by company earnings
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday, boosted by encouraging quarterly results from several well-known companies.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed nearly 62 points to 13,390.51, its first gain of the week. The S&P 500 gained nearly 4 points to 1,461.02, and the Nasdaq composite rose 14 to 3,105.81.
On the New York Stock Exchange, for every stock that fell, another two rose.
Airplane maker Boeing rose 3.5 percent after falling for two days because of worries about technical problems with its 787s.
Consumer products maker Helen of Troy, whose brands include Dr. Scholl's and Vidal Sassoon, rose after reporting a 15 percent profit increase. Monsanto rose a day after reporting higher profits.
Volume was in line with the recent average at 3.6 billion shares.
Asia stocks rise on positive start to US earnings
BANGKOK (AP) — A positive start to U.S. corporate earnings season and a sharp improvement in China's monthly trade helped boost Asian stock markets Thursday.
Hong Kong's benchmark index rose on the heels of a decision by China's securities regulator to transfer some IPOs of mainland-based companies to the territory's exchange.
Major regional benchmarks rose after a handful of better-than-expected results from U.S. companies that also lifted Wall Street. Consumer products maker Helen of Troy, whose brands include Dr. Scholl's and Vidal Sassoon, reported a 15 percent profit increase. Electronic payments processor Global Payments said its fiscal second-quarter earnings rose nearly 15 percent, beating Wall Street expectations.
Oil prices have risen Thursday. Benchmark crude oil contracts for February delivery is up 39 cents to $93.49 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In currencies, the dollar gained against the euro and the yen.
China trade rebounds in sign of economic recovery
BEIJING (AP) — China's trade growth has rebounded strongly in a positive sign for the recovery of the world's second-largest economy.
Data on Thursday showed export growth in December more than doubled from the previous month to 14 percent. Imports rose 6 percent, up from November's lack of growth, in a sign of increasing domestic demand.
The data add to signs China is gradually emerging from its worst economic downturn since the 2008 global crisis. Factory output and other activity also are improving, though analysts say a recovery will be slow and weak.
TODAY' S REPORTS
WASHINGTON — The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims today as well as its survey on job openings and labor turnover for November.
Also today, Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, will report on the weekly mortgage rates and the Commerce Department releases wholesale trade inventories for November.
LABOR SECRETARY RESIGNS
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis resigns
WASHINGTON (AP) — Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is resigning, saying she plans to return to her native California. She's expected to run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In a message to colleagues Wednesday, Solis said she made the decision after discussing it with family and close friends.
One of the highest-ranking Hispanics in Obama's administration, Solis has won praise from labor unions for aggressive enforcement of wage and hour laws and job safety regulations. But business groups have criticized her as not taking a more cooperative approach.
President Barack Obama calls Solis "a tireless champion for working families."
ShopperTrak: Holiday sales rose 2.5 percent
NEW YORK (AP) — The latest measure on holiday spending suggests that retail sales climbed 2.5 percent for the November and December period, boosted by a last-minute shopping surge.
The data from Chicago-based ShopperTrak offers more evidence that the holiday shopping season, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of annual revenue for retailers, was respectable but not robust.
ShopperTrak, which analyzes customer traffic, says shoppers spent $248.8 billion, according to preliminary sales data. Foot traffic was up 2.5 percent for the two-month period as well. The holiday sales gain matched ShopperTrak's forecast that was cut on Dec. 19 from its 3.3 percent growth prediction issued in September.
After a solid spending spree over the Thanksgiving weekend, sales limped along until the final days before Christmas, when stores were forced to discount more than they had planned to woo back shoppers. Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, was again the top sales day, followed by Dec. 22, the Saturday before Christmas. The third, fourth and fifth biggest sales days were Dec. 23, Dec. 21, and Dec. 15.
New federal rules aim to curb risky mortgages
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has rolled out new rules designed to ensure that mortgage borrowers can afford to repay the loans they take out.
The rules, which take effect next year, impose a range of obligations and restrictions on lenders.
Lenders will be required to verify and inspect borrowers' financial records. They generally will be prohibited from saddling borrowers with loan payments totaling 43 percent of the person's annual income.
Risky "interest-only" and "no documentation" loans that helped inflate the housing bubble will be banned. The rules limit features like teaser rates that adjust upwards and large "balloon payments" that must be made at the end of the loan period.
The bureau has proposed amendments that would exempt from the rules some loans made by community banks, credit unions and nonprofit lenders that work with low- and moderate-income consumers.
Eli Lilly settles Mass. Pregnancy drug-cancer case
BOSTON (AP) — A settlement in a Massachusetts lawsuit by four sisters who say their breast cancer was caused by a drug their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s is being praised by other women who have brought scores of similar claims.
Eli Lilly reached an undisclosed financial settlement Wednesday in a case brought by the Melnick sisters. They believe their breast cancer was caused by a synthetic estrogen known as DES, which was prescribed to millions of women to prevent miscarriages.
The sisters' case was the first to go to trial out of dozens filed nationwide.
Eli Lilly says it believes its medication "did not cause the conditions alleged in this lawsuit," but the settlement was in its best interest.
Irene Sawyer, of Columbus, Ohio, calls the settlement a "huge victory."
Google invests $200 million in Texas wind farm
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is investing $200 million in a Texas wind farm, the Internet search leader's latest big bet on the future alternative energy.
The commitment to the Spinning Spur Wind Project in the state's panhandle section announced Wednesday brings Google's total investments in alternative energy to about $1.2 billion. The company has backed 11 different projects with a combined capacity to produce 2 gigawatts of electricity -- enough to power about 500,000 U.S. homes for a year.
Google has been pouring money into alternative energy since 2010 because it believes the investments will prove profitable as the demand for cleaner sources of power rises amid increasing concerns about the pollution caused by oil and coal. The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., is consuming more power as it builds more data centers to run its Internet search engine and other online services used by more than 1 billion people throughout the world.
The Texas wind farm can produce up to 161 megawatts of electricity.
GENERAL MOTORS-NEW JOBS
General Motors to open tech center in Roswell
DETROIT (AP) — A General Motors spokesman says the company is planning to open an information technology center in suburban Atlanta and is looking to create about 1,000 jobs in the area.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to announce the development Thursday at Georgia Tech University.
The move is part of a larger push by the automaker to hire up to 10,000 technology professionals over a three- to five-year period to produce GM software and other electronic applications in-house, as opposed to buying the products from outside companies.
General Motors Co. operates information technology centers in Warren, Mich., and Austin, Texas, and representatives say entry-level software engineers make between $60,000 and $70,000. The company spokesman says the facility in Roswell, Ga., is expected to open in March and hiring will begin immediately.
Japan's ANA cancels flight due to 787 computer bug
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's All Nippon Airways says it cancelled a domestic flight to Tokyo on Wednesday after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the Boeing 787's brakes.
An ANA spokesman in Tokyo said Thursday that the passengers on NH698, due to fly from Yamaguchi in southern Japan to Tokyo's Haneda airport, were transferred to a later flight.
He said the problem was fixed and the plane later returned to Tokyo.
He said ANA had seen a computer problem like Wednesday's once before but that small glitches were to be expected with a new model aircraft and the problems seen so far with the 787 Dreamliner were typical.
Boeing 787s were involved in two incidents at a U.S. airport this week that sparked new concerns about the plane.