Stocks fall as investors wait on Washington

NEW YORK — Stocks ground lower Tuesday as budget gridlock in Washington brought the U.S. closer to an unprecedented default on its debt.

After opening relatively flat, the stock market moved steadily lower. Nervous investors dumped short-term government debt as they worried that the standoff in Washington could jeopardize the nation’s ability to pay its bills, as early as next week if Congress doesn’t raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 159.71 to 14,776.53. The S&P 500 closed down 20.67 to 1,655.45. The Nasdaq fell 75.54 to 3,694.83.

FAA ends furloughs for 787 certification staff

The workers who handle the certification of new aircraft such as the Boeing 787 made in North Charleston were called back to work this week after being furloughed because of the government shutdown. The Federal Aviation Administration recalled about 800 workers.

Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said the recalled workers include those who certify 787s made at Charleston International. She also said Boeing holds designated authority from the FAA to perform some of its own certification work.

“Boeing Commercial Airplanes is continuing to complete and certify commercial airplanes and make them available for delivery during the government shutdown,” Eslinger said.

A line of 787 Dreamliners remained parked for delivery in North Charleston on Tuesday.

Alcoa reports slim 3Q profit on lower costs

NEW YORK — Alcoa said Tuesday it swung to a $24 million profit in the third quarter despite lower aluminum prices, as it was helped by demand from auto makers and by cost-cutting moves. That compared with a year-ago loss of $143 million.

Revenue is down 1 percent to $5.77 billion, better than the $5.64 billion analysts were forecasting. Alcoa operates a large smelter near Goose Creek.

In hopeful sign, Penney Sept. sales not as bad

NEW YORK — Shares of J.C. Penney got a slight boost Tuesday after the struggling department store chain said that a key sales barometer wasn’t as bad last month as it was in August.

The company also expects that it will have ample cash on hand at the end of the year.

The assurances marked the second time since late September that Penney said business was showing signs of improvement and tried to address worries about reserves. The company is seeking to calm investors who are growing pessimistic about a turnaround.

Gov’t: Most US heating bills to rise this winter

WASHINGTON — Chillier weather and slightly higher fuel prices may make this winter more expensive for U.S. residents.

The government forecast Tuesday that most households will pay more for heat this winter. Heating oil users will catch a slight break, but still pay near-record prices to keep warm. Prices for natural gas, electricity and propane should be higher, the primary reason that more than 90 percent of homes will incur higher heating expenses.

Homes using natural gas for heat will pay about $679. That is about 13 percent higher than a year ago but still 4 percent below the average for the previous five winters. Homes relying on electricity for heat, about 38 percent of the U.S., will likely pay about 2 percent more for heat compared with last year.

For heating oil customers, there is good news and bad. Their average bill should drop 2 percent. But they’ll still pay an average of $2,046, the second highest on record.

Staff and wire reports