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Monday Morning Business Brief

March 24, 2014, 5:44 AM

Monday Morning Business Brief

Investors on Wall Street are looking to see whether the stock market will resume its climb when the market opens today. The S&P 500 index finished with a solid weekly gain, up 1.4 percent, while the Dow gained 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq composite 0.7 percent. That came despite a down finish to the week. On Friday, the S&P lost 5 ½ points to close at 1,866. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 28 points to 16,302. The Nasdaq composite dropped 42 ½ points to 4,276.

  • Asian stock markets are higher as investors focus on signs of strengthening overseas demand in an otherwise weak China manufacturing survey. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index dropped to 48 in March, indicating contraction. But the survey had a bright spot. It showed that new orders from China's overseas customers rose. European shares are lower after a eurozone manufacturing survey reinforced expectations of a slow recovery.
  • Business economists are expecting the Federal Reserve to continue trimming its stimulus program, and most see the Fed ending its bond purchases this fall. The consensus of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics is that the pace of U.S. economic growth will speed up later this year and next. The economists say bad weather cut first-quarter growth to a weak annual rate of 1.9 percent. But they think growth could exceed 3 percent by year's end.
  • Gasoline prices have been rising. The latest Lundberg Survey finds the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline rose 5 cents during the past two weeks to $3.56. Analyst Trilby Lundberg says the increase stems from a jump in the price of ethanol used to make gasoline and U.S. refiners starting to switch over to more expensive summer-blend gasoline.
  • The Houston Ship Channel remains closed this morning after a barge carrying oil collided with a ship over the weekend, spilling nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil into the busy Texas waterway. More help is being called in to contain the spill and protect shorebird habitat. Oil has been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile 60 vessels are waiting to get in or out of the channel, but no timetable has been set for it to reopen.

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