Stocks see modest gains, still up for week
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks posted only modest gains Wednesday. Still, the market is on track for solid gains for the week because of strong showings Monday and Tuesday.
In the latest session, the Dow rose 5 points to 13,557. The S&P added 6 points to 1,461. The Nasdaq gained 3 to 3,104.
In the three days of the week so far, the key averages are up 1.7 to 2.3 percent.
Jobless claims, leading indicators due
WASHINGTON (AP) — On today's economic calendar, the Labor Department releases new claims for unemployment benefits, a weekly snapshot. The Conference Board has the index of leading indicators for September.
Also, Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage interest rates, which have been at record lows in recent weeks.
Asia stocks rise on US, China recovery signs
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Thursday after an unexpectedly strong U.S. housing report renewed confidence in the world's biggest economy and the latest data from China suggested the worst of its slump is over.
The U.S. Commerce Department said builders started construction on new single-family houses and apartments at the fastest pace in more than four years. Housing starts surged to an annual rate of 872,000 in September, far above estimates. Housing is crucial to any economic recovery in the U.S. and the figures offset the gloom from some mediocre earnings reports.
Checking the markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose sharply, by 2 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6 percent.
Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 1 cent at $92.13 per barrel at midday Bangkok time on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Europe's leaders to focus on strengthening banks
BRUSSELS (AP) — European leaders are gathering again in Brussels to discuss how to save the euro currency from collapse and support countries facing too much debt and not enough growth.
But Thursday and Friday's summit promises to be just a small pit-stop on the road to recovery, with few decisions expected. The leaders of the 27 countries that make up the European Union will discuss how to support their banks, one part of the crisis.
Some countries have stepped in to save their failing banks — and are now struggling themselves. The EU is considering forming a "banking union" to break this dangerous connection. But some countries are eager to put on the brakes on the plan.
Debate will also center on whether to give Europe's bailout fund the power to lend money to banks.
EBay posts higher 3Q earnings, revenue
NEW YORK (AP) — EBay says its third-quarter earnings grew 22 percent. It was helped by higher revenue at its PayPal payments service and the marketplaces business that includes eBay.com.
The online commerce company says it earned $597 million, or 45 cents per share, in the July-September period. That's up from $491 million, or 37 cents per share, a year earlier.
Adjusted earnings were 55 cents per share in the latest quarter, a penny ahead of Wall Street's expectations.
Revenue grew 15 percent to $3.4 billion from $2.97 billion.
The company is working to take advantage of the increasing number of people who use their smartphones to shop and pay for things.
CEO John Donahoe sounded an upbeat note about the holiday shopping season. He says he's "cautiously optimistic" about consumer spending over the holidays. Meanwhile, eBay raised slightly its full-year guidance for net income and revenue.
American Express profit inches higher in 3Q
LOS ANGELES (AP) — American Express says its net income rose 1 percent in the third quarter, aided by lower expenses and increased spending by the credit card issuer's customers.
Spending by the company's cardholders rose 8 percent in the U.S. during the July-to-September quarter versus a year earlier. It increased 6 percent globally.
The increased spending helped boost revenue 4 percent. The company also benefited from lower operating costs.
Even so, according to CEO Kenneth Chenault, the rate of growth in spending by the New York company's cardholders actually slowed compared to a few months ago, reflecting a trend among major card issuers this year.
The company says credit quality — an industry term for how well borrowers are keeping up with debt payments — remained at historically strong levels.
For its latest quarter, American Express reported net income of $1.25 billion, or $1.09 per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with net income of $1.24 billion, or $1.03 per share, in the same period last year.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $7.86 billion from $7.57 billion.
Average debt up again for new college grads
UNDATED (AP) — How serious is the mounting burden of student debt in this country?
A new report says two-thirds of the national college class of 2011 finished school with loan debt. Those who borrowed walked off the graduation stage owing on average $26,600 — up about 5 percent from the class before.
The California-based Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) report may underestimate the problem in some ways because the figures don't include most graduates of for-profit colleges, who typically borrow more than their counterparts elsewhere.
Still, while 2011 college graduates faced an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent in 2011, even those with debt remained generally better off than those without a degree. The report emphasizes research showing that the economic returns on college degrees remain, in general, strong. It noted the unemployment rate for those with only a high school credential last year was 19.1 percent.
Student debt nationally by some measures has surpassed $1 trillion. Recent government figures show nearly 10 percent of borrowers of federal student loans in the most recently measured cohort had already defaulted within two years of starting repayment.
Chinese firm says US rejection deters investment
BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese company suing the U.S. government and President Barack Obama for blocking its planned wind farm projects has warned that the case will likely deter Chinese investment into the United States.
Last month, Obama stepped in to block Ralls Corporation's plan to build four wind farms in Oregon near a U.S. Navy base. He acted after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States concluded it posed security risks.
Company bosses denied that the project posed security risks and said the U.S. was discriminating against the company because it was Chinese. They filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Washington.
Ralls Corp. CEO Wu Jialiang told a news conference Thursday that his company would "never do anything that threatens U.S. national security."
Analysts, PC industry cool on Windows 8
NEW YORK (AP) — While Microsoft is running ads ahead of next week's launch of Windows 8. PC makers and analysts are increasingly skeptical that the new operating system will lure consumers away from tablets and smartphones.
Even Intel Corp., which makes the processors at the heart of 80 percent of personal computers, doubts that Windows 8 will have a big impact on sales. CEO Paul Otellini said this week that he's "very excited" about the new operating system but expects the usual holiday bounce in PC sales to be half of what it usually is. PC makers are being cautious about building big stocks of Windows 8 PCs.
Research firm IHS iSuppli expects the industry to ship 349 million PCs this year, down 1 percent from last year's all-time high. Although small, the decline would be the first since 2001.
Sony redo of PlayStation Store links games, movies
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sony Corp. is revamping its PlayStation Store as it prepares a common storefront across devices from its game console to its Web-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and phones.
The rollout began for PlayStation 3 users in Europe on Wednesday and will continue in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico next Tuesday.
The store puts related game and movie franchises together on one page. That will allow fans of video games like "Resident Evil" or "Lego Harry Potter" to buy or rent movies from the same series more easily. Alphabetic searches are also easier with a game controller now than before.
Sony's general manager of global digital video and music services, Michael Aragon, says Sony plans to roll out similar storefronts on TVs and other devices in the coming months.
Judge sides with DC Comics in fight over Superman
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that the heirs of one of Superman's creators have no right to reclaim copyrights to the Man of Steel.
Heirs of Superman artist Joe Shuster sought to reclaim the copyrights, but a judge ruled they relinquished that right more than two decades ago.
The ruling Wednesday means that DC Comics and its owner Warner Bros. will retain all rights to continue using the character in books, films, television and other mediums.
DC Comics sued Shuster's heirs in 2010, seeking a ruling that it owns the Superman copyrights.
Wright noted that Shuster's sister agreed in 1992 to annual payments from DC Comics in exchange for all interests in the character.
Her attorney Marc Toberoff wrote in a statement that he respectfully disagrees with the ruling.
PEANUT BUTTER RECALL
NM peanut capital at heart of national recall
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The eastern New Mexico town of Portales is preparing for its 39th annual peanut festival this weekend. But the festivities may be overshadowed by anxiety over the shuttering of a local plant at the heart of a national peanut butter recall.
Officials with Sunland Inc., the nation's largest USDA certified organic peanut processing plant, say they are scrubbing from top to bottom and hope to get some operations running within a week or two. But it could be two more months before they start making peanut butter again.
The plant makes nut butters for several major retailers. It was shut and more than 200 products recalled after salmonella was found in Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter. Thirty-five illnesses in 19 states have been linked to the product.