Tuesday Evening Business Brief
August 27, 2013, 6:08 PM
- Fears of an escalating conflict in Syria rippled across financial markets, sinking stocks, lifting gold and pushing the price of oil to the highest in a year and a half. The increasing possibility of U.S. military strikes raised worries on Wall Street that energy trade in the region could be disrupted, raising fuel costs for consumers and business. The Dow Jones industrial average fell just over 1 percent to its lowest level in two months. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.6 percent, and the Nasdaq composite fell 2.2 percent.
- The price of oil closed above $109 a barrel, its highest level in a year and a half, as the U.S. edged closer to intervening in Syria's civil war. The price of oil is has surged more than 15 percent in the last three months on concern that civil war in Syria and unrest in Egypt could disrupt production and exports, especially in Libya and Iraq. The threat of spreading violence could block important supply routes.
- Americans' confidence in the economy inched closer to a 5 1/2-year high on growing optimism that hiring and wages could pick up in coming months. The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index rose to 81.5 in August. That's just below the 82.1 reading in June, which was the highest since January 2008. Although consumers were more confident about the future, their assessment of the current economy dipped slightly in August.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will extend its health care benefits to its U.S. workers' domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1. The nation's largest private employer says the changes were made to have one uniform policy for the company in all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions. Employees can enroll their domestic partners from Oct. 12 through Nov. 1.
- The Labor Department has approved new rules to help boost the number of veterans and disabled people in the workforce. The new rules require government contractors to set a goal of having disabled workers make up at least 7 percent of their employees. The benchmark for veterans would be 8 percent, a rate that could change depending on the number of former military members in the workforce. The rules could have a major impact on hiring since federal contractors and subcontractors account for more than 20 percent of the nation's workforce.
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