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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

December 26, 2012, 1:16 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

A weak holiday sales report has sent stocks sinking today on Wall Street. The MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report found sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry, and home goods increased just 0.7 percent in the two months before Christmas compared with the same period last year.

  • Traders on Wall Street are watching to see if a budget agreement materializes in Washington. President Barack Obama has cut short his Christmas vacation in Hawaii and will be returning to the White House by early tomorrow to resume budget talks with Congressional Republicans. The deadline before the economy goes over the "fiscal cliff" is next week.
  • The S&P's Case-Shiller report shows home prices rose in most major cities in October compared with a year ago. The national home index rose 4.3 percent in October -- the largest year-over-year increase in two and a-half years.
  • The price of oil rose sharply on higher U.S. home prices and hopes of a budget deal in Washington. U.S. benchmark crude jumped 2.3 percent to $90.67 per barrel in thin post-Christmas trading this afternoon in New York. Analysts note that light trading volume around the holidays can mean broad swings in crude prices.
  • Federal regulators are weighing whether to make airlines reveal prices for baggage and other fees to online sellers like Orbitz and Expedia. Travel industry officials and consumer advocates complain it's getting harder for consumers to know the price of air fares so they can compare across airlines. The Department of Transportation is working on a proposal to address the issue.

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