Fear of a volatile Sept. for stock markets dims

NEW YORK — September was supposed to be ugly for financial markets.

The prospects of a U.S. attack on Syria and less economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve only added to investor worries going into September, which historically is the worst month of the year for stocks.

Instead, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 3.3 percent so far this month, even after it slipped 25.96 to 15,300.64 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is up 3.1 percent this month, after falling 5.71 Thursday to 1,683.42.

The Nasdaq composite fell 9.04 to 3,715.97.

Duke Energy to raise power rates 10% in SC

GREENVILLE — Regulators have approved a rate increase of about 10 percent over the next two years for Duke Energy customers in South Carolina.

The Public Service Commission says Duke Energy’s residential customers will see about a 7 percent increase starting later this month with an additional 3 percent increase in 2014.

Duke Energy initially asked for a 15 percent increase, and the Office of Regulatory Staff countered by asking the commission to cut it in half. The 10 percent increase is a compromise.

Officials say the utility needs the additional money to recoup what it has already paid for new power plants and equipment to comply with regulations. Duke Energy has 540,000 customers in South Carolina, mostly in the Upstate.

U.S. 30-year mortgage rate is steady at 4.57%

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages held steady this week, hovering near two-year highs. But rates could change quickly next week when the Federal Reserve addresses its bond purchase program.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged from last week at 4.57 percent, just below the two-year high of 4.58 percent reached Aug. 22.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage held at 3.59 percent. The two-year high of 3.60 percent was hit on Aug. 22.

Fewer homes entered foreclosure in August

Lenders initiated foreclosure action in August against the fewest U.S. homes for any month in nearly eight years, a trend that should help reduce the number of homes lost to foreclosure in the months ahead.

Some 55,775 homes entered the foreclosure process last month, a decline of 8 percent from July and down 44 percent from August last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The national slowdown in foreclosure starts reflects an improving housing market, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans dating back to the pre-housing bubble days.

Wal-Mart to phase out certain toxic chemicals

Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it will require its suppliers to phase out 10 hazardous chemicals from personal care products, cosmetics and cleaning products sold in its stores.

It will also require the suppliers to disclose chemicals in those products.

The moves follow an announcement made by Procter & Gamble Co., the world’s largest consumer product maker, earlier this month that it will eliminate phthalates and triclosan from its beauty products by 2014.

In 2012, Johnson & Johnson pledged to eliminate phthalates, triclosan, formaldehydes and parabens from all its personal care products globally.

Wire reports