Stocks close lower for fifth consecutive day

NEW YORK — The stock market mostly recovered from an afternoon slump to end with slight losses.

In minutes from their latest meeting released Wednesday, Federal Reserve officials said they saw a variety of threats to the U.S. economy, including a slowdown in China and a looming budget crunch in Washington. The Fed also didn’t signal that new steps to stimulate the economy were on the way.

Stock investors took the news badly at first, but by the end of the day were taking it in stride.

The Dow closed at 12,604.53, down 48.59. The S&P 500 index slipped 0.02 to 1,341.45. The technology-focused Nasdaq index lost 14.35 to 2,887.98.

U.S. trade deficit fell to $48.7 billion for May

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, helped by cheaper oil that lowered imports and an increase in American exports to Europe and China.

But economists cautioned that the global economy has weakened since then. And they noted that the decline in the deficit wasn’t enough to alter their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, down from $50.6 billion in April.

Higher bookings, rates increase Marriott’s net

NEW YORK — Marriott International Inc. said Wednesday that its second-quarter net income rose 6 percent on higher bookings and rates, despite a revenue decline due to the spin-off of its timeshare business.

The company also raised its earnings expectations for the full year but predicts lower revenue from fees and weaker-than-expected growth in Europe and Asia, where the economy has slowed.

Marriott, which also operates Ritz-Carlton hotels, Fairfield Inn & Suites and other lodging brands, earned $143 million, or 42 cents per share, in the 12 weeks ended June 15.

Rating on Penney debt lowered by S&P again

NEW YORK — Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services is lowering its credit rating on J.C. Penney Co. further into junk status, saying the department store chain’s performance remains weak. The ratings agency said Wednesday it lowered its corporate credit rating on the retailer to “B+” from “BB-.” The junk rating is four notches below investment grade. The move marks the second downgrade from S&P since May.

Under new CEO Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney is overhauling every aspect of its business. But concerns are growing about the company’s ability to turn its business around.

Groupon’s shares hit lowest level since IPO

NEW YORK — Groupon’s stock hit its lowest level Wednesday since the online deals company went public at $20 in November amid concerns about traffic to its website and its exposure to Europe’s weak economy.

Internet trends tracker ComScore Inc. said traffic to Groupon declined 15 percent in June from a year earlier. Groupon.com had about 12.2 million unique visitors last month from 14.5 million in June 2011.

In addition, a Citi Investment Research analyst expressed some concerns about Groupon’s exposure to Europe. Shares of Groupon fell 54 cents to close at $7.77 on Wednesday. Earlier, it hit an all-time low of $7.72.

AT&T U-verse restored following severed line

AT&T’s Internet, phone and cable service in Mount Pleasant was restored shortly after noon Wednesday after a fiber optic line was accidentally cut about 3 p.m. Tuesday by a construction crew on Chuck Dawley Boulevard. The outage affected the company’s U-verse customers, including East Cooper Medical Center, which relied on a backup phone system during the outage.

Staff and wire reports