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October 17, 2012 05:42 PM

Wednesday Evening Business Brief

Stocks have finished mostly higher on Wall Street. A surprisingly strong housing report offset weak earnings reports from Intel and IBM that weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average. The Dow edged up 5 points to close at 13,557, barely managing its fourth straight day of gains. The S&P 500 gained 6 points and the Nasdaq inched up 3 points.

  • The price of oil has finished about flat after bouncing around during the day. Benchmark oil gained 3 cents to $92.12. It rose as high as $92.85 per barrel in the morning after gains in European stocks, then dipped after the U.S. government reported a bigger-than-expected increase in U.S. crude supplies. Gasoline supplies also rose. Analysts had predicted a decline.
  • High-definition televisions have rapidly become the norm in U.S. homes. The Nielsen company says more than three-quarters of American homes now have a high-def TV, and nearly 40 percent have more than one. In 2007, only 11 percent of U.S. homes had an HD TV. But just 29 percent of prime-time viewing on broadcast networks is in true high-definition, and it's even less for cable networks.
  • With food prices rising around the world, the European Union is considering limiting the amount of food-based biofuels that can count toward its mandatory renewable fuel targets. The bloc previously decided that 10 percent of fuel used by its transport sector must come from renewable sources by 2020. But some people object to burning food while millions go hungry. And environmentalists argue that biofuels may add as much to greenhouse gas emissions as fossil fuels because trees are felled to grow them.
  • The European Union's farmers' union is calling this the worst wine harvest in half a century. It says drought, cold and hail are to blame. France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared to last year, with chardonnay grapes particularly hurt by the weather. Italy's grape crop showed a 7 percent drop -- on top of a decline in 2011.
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