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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

February 13, 2014, 2:06 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are moving higher on Wall Street as investors assess the latest corporate earnings. Goodyear Tire & Rubber and broadcaster CBS rose after reporting strong earnings gains. Those upbeat reports are helping to offset reports of rising jobless claims and slowing retail sales. The Dow was up more than 70 points in afternoon trading, while the S&P 500 has added 10 points and the Nasdaq composite was up more than 30.

  • U.S. businesses restocked at a faster pace in December. The Commerce Department says inventories rose 0.5 percent. At the same time, sales growth slowed to just 0.1 percent. Together the figures point to a risk for the economy: if companies build stockpiles at a faster pace than their sales are growing, they may end up stuck with more goods than they need.
  • Winter storms appear to be undercutting the nation's economy. The latest evidence comes from the government's January retail sales report out today. It shows a drop of 0.4 percent last month. That followed a smaller decline in December. The news comes as another snowstorm blankets the eastern third of the country. All the snow and cold has some economists lowering their growth estimates for the January-March quarter.
  • Mortgage rates remain near historically low levels. But after sinking the past five weeks, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage edged higher this week to 4.28 percent.  Freddie Mac says the average for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 3.33 percent.
  • A massive coal ash spill on the Dan River in North Carolina is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation. The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic ash into the river to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. The U.S. Attorney's Office has issued a grand jury subpoena requesting records from Duke Energy and the state environmental agency. Yesterday, the agency withdrew a proposed settlement over the pollution amid criticism that it shielded Duke from more expensive federal penalties.

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