Stocks are coming off three straight losing sessions. Yesterday's losses were relatively modest, with the Dow off about 29 points and the S&P down two. The Nasdaq dropped 10. Weak earnings forecasts from retailers, including Wal-Mart, Ross and Limited Brands soured the mood Thursday.
- Oil prices have been swinging between slight gains and losses Friday, barely budging despite an escalation in fighting between Israel and militants in Gaza. Demand for energy remains weak and supplies are ample. Benchmark oil for December delivery was below $85.50 per barrel by late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped by 87 cents to finish at $85.45 per barrel in New York yesterday.
- The Federal Reserve will provide a fresh look at activity in the manufacturing sector this morning when it releases data on industrial production for October. The sector has slumped since spring, but last month the Fed reported 0.4 percent increase in output at factories, mines and utilities.
- Hostess Brands says it will probably announce later this morning whether it will liquidate its business, after assessing plant operations. The company had said it would file the motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court if striking employees didn't return to work by 5 p.m. yesterday. Such an action would mean a loss of about 18,000 jobs.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says banks' overly tight lending standards may be holding back the U.S. economy by preventing creditworthy borrowers from buying homes. Bernanke says some tightening of credit standards was needed after the 2008 financial crisis. But he says "the pendulum has swung too far the other way." He says some qualified borrowers are being prevented from getting home loans.
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