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Friday Afternoon Business Brief

January 27, 2012, 1:23 PM

Friday Afternoon Business Brief
The Dow is on track to chalk up its first losing week of the year, but not by much. The key averages are mixed, with the Nasdaq remaining in positive territory.
  • The Fitch ratings agency says it is downgrading the credit grades of five European nations including Italy and Spain. Fitch cites "the marked deterioration in the economic outlook" in Europe and "the absence of a credible financial firewall against contagion and self-fulfilling liquidity crises."
  • Spain's unemployment rate has soared to nearly 23 percent. And even worse, it is close to 50 percent for those under age 25, leaving more than 5 million people - or almost one out of every four - out of work as the country slides toward recession. 
  • Union membership grew slightly last year, giving labor leaders hope that a period of steep declines has finally bottomed out. According to the federal government, the number of unionized workers increased by about 50,000 to nearly 14.8 million members in 2011. That's after unions had lost nearly 1.4 million members over the previous two years.
  • The nation's fourth quarter growth rate, released today, wasn't quite was robust as expected. GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent. The growth was fueled by a surge in sales of cars and other durable goods.

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