Stocks fall in six of last seven trading sessions

NEW YORK — The budget fight may be happening in Washington, but it’s investors on Wall Street who keep getting smacked.

Stocks fell Friday for the sixth day out of the last seven, and ended the week with a decline. Investors focused on the risk the government could shut down Tuesday unless Congress agrees to a new spending bill.

And even if that hurdle is cleared, the dispute is poised to continue into the middle of October as legislators debate raising the U.S. borrowing limit.

There were a lot of moving parts for investors to keep track of on Friday. The Senate approved a spending bill that is already considered dead in the House of Representatives, where Republicans want changes to President Barack Obama’s health care law. Obama spoke on live television during the closing minutes of trading. And investors braced for the possibility that when markets reopen on Monday, none of this will have been resolved.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 70.06 to close at 15,258.24. The S&P 500 index fell 6.92 to 1,691.75. The Nasdaq fell 5.83 at 3,781.59. Still, the indexes were off only about 1 percent for the week.

Consumers boost their spending 0.3% in Aug.

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers increased their spending slightly last month as their income grew at the fastest pace in six months. The figures point to modest economic growth in the July-September quarter.

Spending on goods and services rose 0.3 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s up from a 0.2 percent gain in July, which was slightly more than the 0.1 percent reported last month.

Consumer spending drives 70 percent of economic activity. Many analysts say the increases are not enough to accelerate economic growth in the third quarter.

JC Penney is looking to raise $810M in offering

PLANO, Texas — J.C. Penney, the struggling retailer that is trying to reassure the market about its financial stability, expects to raise about $810.6 million via a public stock offering.

J.C. Penney said Friday it plans to offer 84 million shares priced at $9.65 per share. That is a 7.3 percent discount to Thursday’s closing price.

J.C. Penney shares slid 13 percent to $9.05. Investors noted the growing pool of cheaper shares means current stakes in the company will shrink.

Exxon to offer benefits to US same-sex couples

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday that it will begin offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples in the U.S. for the first time starting next week.

The company says it will recognize “all legal marriages” when it determines eligibility for health care plans for the company’s 77,000 employees and retirees in the U.S.

That means if a gay employee has been married in a state or country where gay marriage is legal, his or her spouse will be eligible for benefits with Exxon in the U.S. as of Oct. 1.

Exxon said it was following the lead of the government. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the act that had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. In recent months, federal agencies have begun to offer benefits to legally-married same-sex couples.

Empire State’s owner, Potbelly going public

NEW YORK — Starting next week, you could own a piece of the Empire State Building. Or, if iconic New York skyscrapers aren’t your thing, you could bite into Potbelly, a sandwich chain with more than 280 shops.

Next week, these and two more companies with familiar names — the owner of budget-friendly clothing store chain Burlington Coat Factory and Re/Max, one of the country’s largest real estate agencies — are expected to sell shares in initial public offerings.

A surging stock market is drawing investors to IPOs. This past week, 12 companies went public. Data provider Dealogic says that’s the most in one week since November 2007.

Wire reports