With corporate earnings season kicking off, market-watchers say fourth-quarter results could include many surprises because of events like Superstorm Sandy, the presidential election, and the narrowly avoided tax increases and spending cuts known of the "fiscal cliff." But the wait has stocks sagging today. The Dow was down about 70 points in afternoon trading, while the S&P and the Nasdaq are down less than half a percent.
- Unemployment rates fell below 7 percent in a majority of U.S. cities in November. The Labor Department says rates fell in 215 of the 372 largest metro areas, while staying the same in 33 others. The numbers suggest steady job gains are benefiting most parts of the country.
- The growing popularity of online shopping continues to put pressure on traditional retailers. Target today announced it will match prices customers find on identical products at select online rivals year-round. The online list includes Amazon.com as well as the websites of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Babies R Us. The moves follow a disappointing holiday shopping season for Target.
- Persistent economic fears are likely to keep a lot of business travelers grounded this year. The Global Business Travel Association says it expects business travel to decrease about one percent this year. At the same time, the groups forecasts the amount travelers spend on airfare, hotel rooms, meals and car rentals will increase close to 5 percent.
- The man who spearheaded the creation of McDonald's "Hamburger University" has died. Fred Turner served as McDonald's CEO from 1974 to 1987, when the fast-food chain tripled its number of locations and expanded its global footprint. McDonald's says Turner died today after suffering complications from pneumonia. He was 80 years old.
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