Stocks close lower after retail reports are weak

NEW YORK — Stock indexes closed lower Thursday, a third straight decline, after U.S. retailers issued weak forecasts for earnings and more people filed claims for unemployment benefits.

Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, all fell after issuing forecasts that disappointed analysts.

Also, Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people seeking unemployment benefits up to 439,000 last week, the Labor Department reported.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 28.57 points at 12,542.38. The S&P 500 index dropped 2.16 to 1,353.33. The Nasdaq composite finished 9.87 lower at 2,836.94.

Airport gives tentative approval to financing plan

The Charleston County Aviation Authority on Thursday preliminarily approved a plan to finance its nearly $200 million terminal redevelopment and improvement program.

The plan, presented to the board by an outside consultant, calls for almost $176 million in bonds to be issued to pay for $139 million of the construction costs.

Some board members questioned the estimated interest rate and estimated construction administration costs. Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails said the panel didn’t have enough information to vote yes.

Proposals for Horizon project are due today

Proposals for how to transform 20 acres of mostly open land on the west side of the Charleston peninsula into 2 million square feet of apartments, offices, retail and research space are due today.

In September, officials estimated that the Horizon project, which has been more than seven years in the making, could bring $1 billion in investment over the next couple decades.

By 4 p.m. today, the city and the Medical University of South Carolina, whose representatives make up the Horizon leadership, will have a better idea of how their vision might become reality.

Bank of S.C. bumps up its quarterly dividend

The Bank of South Carolina Corp. said Thursday it has raised its quarterly dividend by a penny, or 9 percent. The new rate is 12 cents a share.

The next dividend is payable Dec. 31 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 30. The higher rate represents a 4 percent annual pre-tax yield for investors.

Target’s 3Q profit up 15%; sales end up short

MINNEAPOLIS — Target said Thursday its third-quarter net income climbed 15 percent, helped by a gain related to the pending sale of its credit-card business. The company’s outlook for the key holiday shopping season is above analyst expectations.

For the three months ended Oct. 27, the chain said it earned $637 million. Revenue climbed 3 percent to $16.6 billion, but missed Wall Street’s $16.91 billion forecast. Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key retail metric, rose 2.9 percent, slower than last year’s 4.3 percent increase.

Bernanke says banks’ loan rules hurting economy

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that banks’ overly tight lending standards may be holding back the U.S. economy by preventing creditworthy borrowers from buying homes.

Some tightening of credit standards was needed after the 2008 financial crisis, but “the pendulum has swung too far the other way.” Bernanke said. Qualified borrowers are being prevented from getting home loans, he said during a speech.

His comments came as mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to a record low of 3.34 percent.

Staff and wire reports