Stocks are modestly higher in afternoon trading after two key reports left a mixed picture of the U.S. economy. One shows home prices jumped in July by the most in seven years. The other finds Americans' confidence in the economy has fallen slightly, with many less optimistic about hiring and pay increases. The Dow was up less than 20 points in afternoon trading, while the broader indexes are seeing somewhat stronger gains.
- The Senate could end up passing a stopgap spending bill that's shorter than expected. That's according to the Senate's No. 2 Democrat. Sen. Dick Durbin says the idea would be to get Congress working sooner than mid-December on a more sweeping piece of legislation - known as an omnibus spending bill.
- Applied Materials has been one of the big gainers on Wall Street today. The chip-making equipment manufacturer announced it's acquiring its rival, Tokyo Electron. The two companies say the $9.39 billion all-stock transaction will result in the creation of a new company with a market capitalization of about $29 billion. Shares in Applied Materials were up more than 8 percent.
- Shareholders of Smithfield Foods have approved a deal to sell the pork producer to a Chinese company. The $34 per share offer from Shuanghui International Holdings was announced in May and is expected to close by the end of the year. It would be the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.
- The cruise industry has been experiencing a rebound since the end of the Great Recession, but Carnival Cruise Lines has been suffering. A series of mechanical problems and fires on three of its ships this year have produced lingering images of passengers stranded at sea aboard disabled vessels with failing toilets and air conditioners. Carnival today said it expects its annual revenue to drop 3 percent. Carnival did turn a $934 million profit over the summer months, but that was down 30 percent from last year.
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