Mixed close on Wall St. as retailers disappoint

The stock market wavered for a second day Thursday as investors weighed disappointing news from the retail industry against more positive signals on the U.S. economy.

The reports of tepid holiday sales disappointed investors, who have been seeing signs for several weeks that the U.S. economy was improving and that shoppers were returning to the malls. It was more than enough to offset a positive report. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week to 330,000, more than predicted.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.98 to close at 16,444.76. The S&P 500 added 0.64 to 1,838.13. The Nasdaq lost 9.42 to 4,156.19.

Bank of SC's profit dips to close out record year

Earnings at The Bank of South Carolina Corp. edged slightly lower to close out 2013. The Charleston-based lender said Thursday it earned $969,868 in the fourth quarter, down about 2 percent from the last three months of 2012. Full-year profits rose 11 percent to almost $4.1 million.

"We were quite pleased with the bank's earnings for 2013, which were a record in our company's history," said CEO Fleetwood S. Hassell.

Incentive wars among states are bemoaned

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he wishes states weren't in constant competition to provide financial incentives in order secure jobs from big companies.

Inslee said he would like to see a national agreement to make that sort of subsidy escalation illegal. His comments come after Washington approved tax breaks valued at nearly $9 billion to persuade Boeing Co. to build a new plane in the state.

Boeing explored bids from 22 states that wanted to secure the jobs that would come with the 777X. The company has promised to build the plane near Seattle after getting tax breaks and union concessions.

Separately, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday that Boeing used his state "to some extent" as leverage during negotiations in Washington.

Sears sales slide during crucial holiday season

Sears shares fell in extended trading Thurday after the retailer reported a sales drop and forecast a major loss.

The struggling retailer says that it expects an adjusted loss between $213 million and $316 million, for its fourth quarter. For the year, it sees an adjusted loss between $811 million and $914 million.

The owner of Kmart and Sears also said revenue from stores open at least a year fell 7.4 percent for the quarter to date in the U.S. and 4.4 percent for Sears Canada.

Alcoa posts $2.3 billion 4Q loss on write-downs

Alcoa said Thursday it lost $2.34 billion in the fourth quarter, mostly because it wrote down the value of aluminum-smelting operations. Without the write-downs and other special items, it would have earned 4 cents per share on revenue of $5.59 billion, a drop of 5 percent.

Alcoa, which has a large smelter near Goose Creek, is struggling with low prices. The company predicted demand for aluminum will grow 7 percent this year, the same as in 2013.

The company released results hours after announcing that an affiliate pleaded guilty to bribing officials in the Middle East kingdom of Bahrain. The affiliate and Alcoa agreed to pay $384 million in penalties.

Staff and wire reports