The stock market has closed early, ahead of Christmas, finishing the session relatively flat. The Dow established a new record high close, with a six-point gain to 18, 030. The S&P 500 lost a fraction of a point, closing just below yesterday's record high of 2082. The Nasdaq composite gained 8 points, finishing at 4,773.
- NEW YORK (AP) - The energy sector has been the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 today. The sector has fallen nearly 9 percent this year as the slide in oil prices has deepened. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.28 today, settling at $55.84 per barrel. Oil prices have been a major focus in markets over the past few weeks as they have fallen by about a half since the summer.
- LOS ANGELES (AP) - The chief of Sony Pictures says it's "essential for the studio to release "The Interview" after what he describes as "an assault" on the company and its employees "by those who wanted to stop free speech." Sony canceled the film's theatrical debut after hackers threatened attacks, but reversed course yesterday saying some 300 independently owned theaters want to show it. Today, Sony says it's also made "The Interview" available for rent on a variety of digital platforms. It costs $5.99 to stream and $14.99 to purchase.
- WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking jobless benefits has been at historically low levels, below 300,000, for 14 of the past 15 weeks. That indicates that companies are retaining their workers and potentially looking to hire with the expectation that economic growth will continue. The Labor Department says first-time jobless claims dropped by 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.
- WASHINGTON (AP) - Mortgage rates have edged higher this week, but the benchmark 30-year fixed remains very close to the 19-month low hit last week. Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage edged up to 3.83 percent this week. The average for a 15-year mortgage stands at 3.10 percent. A year ago, the 30-year mortgage was 4.48 percent.