Stocks are higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors respond to encouraging quarterly results from several retailers. J.C. Penney and Best Buy shares are up sharply. Traders are also analyzing comments from the new Federal Reserve chief.
- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says some recent economic figures have pointed to weaker consumer spending than had been expected. She says the Fed will be watching to see whether the slowdown proves only a temporary blip caused by severe winter weather. Yellen tells the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed will be alert to upcoming data to make sure that the economy keeps strengthening.
- McDonald's plans to expand a test this year that lets people order customized burgers. The world's biggest hamburger chain began testing the waters of personalized orders last year with a "build-your-own burger" concept at a location in California. In addition to its traditional menu, the restaurant offers tablets where people can tap out the bun, patty, cheese and toppings they want on their burgers.
- Oil companies plan a big increase in drilling activity in 2014 in a shale formation in southwest Mississippi and Louisiana. They're trying to extract oil from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which one study says could hold 7 billion barrels. Louisiana and Mississippi are trying to spur activity through tax breaks. Leaders hope drilling will boost the rural region's economy.
- Federal officials are outlining proposed measures to shield endangered whales if seismic testing for oil and gas deposits is allowed along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida. The measures are contained in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's final environmental impact statement released today. The measures would include an exclusionary zone along the main migratory route for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, as well as other proposals intended to limit the impact on sea life.
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