Stocks are lower in afternoon trading after U.S. retailers turned in mixed earnings reports. Wal-Mart's stock fell sharply, after the retailer issued a weak outlook for fourth-quarter profits. Target said its profit and sales rose but the sales gains were slower than last year. Shares in Ross Stores slid after it predicting poor results for the holiday shopping season. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are all down.
- BP says it will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company also is pleading guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers in the rig explosion that triggered the spill and lying to Congress. Two BP employees have been indicted on manslaughter charges over the deaths.
- Rates on fixed mortgages fell to new record lows this week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.34 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dropped to 2.65 percent. The downward trend has helped the housing market start to recover this year.
- Manufacturing shrank in the Philadelphia and New York regions this month. Damage from Superstorm Sandy disrupted area factories, helping send the Federal Reserve's regional manufacturing activity down to minus-10.7. That's down from a reading of 5.7 in October, which was the first month of growth since April.
- United Airlines says it has fixed a computer problem that led to widespread delays for thousands of its passengers today. The outage lasted for about two hours this morning, preventing dispatchers from sending flight information to about half of the United's flights. United has been struggling with technology problems since March, when it switched its computer system for passenger information.
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