Business Highlights

The Associated Press 0

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Nasdaq resumes stock trading after 3-hour outage

NEW YORK (AP) — Trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange was halted for three hours Thursday due to a technical glitch. Other exchanges were operating normally.

Nasdaq trading resumed at 3:25 p.m. EDT after being stopped shortly after noon because of problems with a quote dissemination system. The Nasdaq composite rose in afternoon trading after trading resumed.

The disruption sent brokers scurrying to figure out what went wrong and raised new questions about the pitfalls of computer-driven stock trading.

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US unemployment aid applications rise to 336,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week after reaching the lowest level in 5 1/2 years. But the broader trend suggests companies are laying off fewer workers and could step up hiring in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for first-time benefits rose 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 in the week ending Aug. 17. That’s up from 323,000 in the previous week, which was the lowest since Jan. 2008.

The four-week average, which smooths week to week fluctuations, fell by 2,250 to 330,500. That’s the sixth straight decline and the lowest for the average since November 2007.

At the depths of the recession in March 2009, applications numbered 670,000.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage at 4.58 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose this week to their highest levels in two years, driven by heightened speculation that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases later this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.58 per cent, up from 4.40 per cent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.60 per cent from 3.44 per cent. Both averages are the highest since July 2011.

Rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May. Last week’s spike comes after more Fed members signalled they could be open to reducing the bond purchases as early as September. The purchases have helped keep long-term interest rates low, including mortgage rates.

Despite the increase, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. And recent reports suggest the jump in rates has yet to sap the housing recovery’s momentum.

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Wal-Mart pushes ‘made in America’ at summit

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is hoping for a groundswell “made-in-America” movement.

The world’s largest retailer hosted its first two-day summit Thursday bringing together retailers, suppliers and government officials that it hopes will build on the company’s recent commitment to drive more manufacturing in the U.S.

The event, which attracted representatives from 500 manufacturers, eight governors, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and officials from three dozen states, comes seven months after the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter pledged that it planned to buy $50 billion more U. S. made goods over the next decade. That’s the equivalent of just more than 10 per cent of what Wal-Mart will sell at retail this year.

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Sears 2Q loss widens as sales weaken at stores

NEW YORK (AP) — It was another bad quarter for Sears Holdings Corp.

The beleaguered retailer, which operates Kmart and Sears stores, said Thursday that its second-quarter loss widened as the company continued to struggle with weak sales and deep discounts. The results were also hurt by the decline in the number of stores in operation and the lingering effects from its spinoff of the Hometown and Outlet brand.

A series of retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy’s Inc., have reported disappointing quarterly results this month and have issued bleaker outlooks as shoppers deal with an uncertain economy and an increase in the payroll tax. Some store executives have also noted that people are shifting spending toward bigger-ticket items like cars and home improvement and away from clothing.

Sears, which caters to middle-income shoppers, faced those pressures on top of its own problems, further clouding the path toward profitability.

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JC Penney adopts ‘poison pill’

PLANO, Texas (AP) — Struggling retailer J.C. Penney is adopting a plan to prevent a takeover attempt just two days after reporting its sixth straight quarter of big losses and steep revenue declines.

It’s the second time in recent years that the company has put into place a so-called “poison pill” plan.

The plan announced Thursday can be put into effect if an individual or an entity acquired 10 per cent or more of the company’s outstanding stock. The corporate defence strategy allows existing shareholders to buy more shares at a very low price if that occurs.

J.C. Penney said there is no current attempt to take over the company.

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Abercrombie & Fitch 2Q results miss expectations

NEW YORK (AP) — Abercrombie & Fitch is the latest retailer to catch a case of the teenage blues.

A&F’s shares plummeted Thursday after the store chain reported a 33 per cent drop in second-quarter profit and warned that business would get even worse in the current quarter, which includes the final stretch of the back-to-school selling period.

The teen retailer’s results missed analysts’ estimates. Its third-quarter earnings forecast came in well below Wall Street expectations.

Teen retailers have struggled during their most recent quarter. Their customer base can be fickle, with constantly changing tastes in fashion and promotions causing shopper loyalty to wane.

In addition, many teens’ clothing purchases are tied closely to how much their parents are willing to spend — and lately that’s not much. Moreover, teens are also facing scarce opportunities for summer jobs or part-time work during the school year. That leaves them short of the extra pocket money to finance a new pair of jeans or leggings.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 66.19 points, or 0.4 per cent, to close at 14,963.74. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 14.16 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 1,656.96. The Nasdaq rose 38.92 points, or 1.1 per cent, at 3,638.71.

Benchmark oil for October delivery rose $1.18 to close at $105.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil slipped 1 cent to $3.07 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline gained 3 cents to $2.96 per gallon. Natural gas rose 9 cents to $3.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude, which sets prices for imported oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 9 cents to $109.90 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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