Stocks are moving lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street as traders look over the just-released minutes of the last Federal Reserve policy meeting. Also in the mix are disappointing earnings from some retailers, including Staples and American Eagle, better-than-expected results from Lowe's and positive news on home sales.
- The Federal Reserve appears on track to slow its bond purchases by the end of this year if the economy continues to improve, but it remains divided over the exact timing. Minutes of the Fed's July 30-31 meeting show that a few policymakers wanted to assess more economic data before deciding when to scale back the $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. Others said it "might soon be time" to slow the purchases, which have helped keep long-term rates near record lows.
- Walmart is getting rid of the $5 entry fee for its holiday layaway program. The move comes as the world's largest retailer is seeing that its low-income shoppers remain pinched in an uncertain economy. At the same time, Wal-Mart is bringing back the $10 cancellation fee it eliminated last year. The interest-free, pay-over-time program for holiday gifts is slated to kick off Sept. 13 and last until Dec. 13.
- At least two major U.S. freight railroads are seeking to install cameras in their locomotives to make sure crews are following rules and avoiding cellphone use. Union Pacific filled a court action this week asking a federal judge to declare that it has the authority to install the cameras under the railroad's labor agreements. Kansas City Southern railroad won a similar lawsuit last month over the objections of labor unions. Installing cameras was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board after a fatal California train collision in 2008.
- Financial data and news company Bloomberg says it's putting in place new policies and procedures designed to keep its journalists from accessing the private information of its Wall Street clients. The moves stem from an outside review that followed complaints from Goldman Sachs that Bloomberg journalists were accessing client log-in activity on the company's trading information terminals. In response, Bloomberg turned off its journalists' special access, limiting it to what clients can see themselves.