GM, Bear Stearns news helps lift stock market

NEW YORK — Stocks rose Wednesday on word that some of the problems dogging General Motors Corp. and Bear Stearns Cos. could be on the mend.

News that GM and the United Auto Workers had reached a contract agreement gave the market an early lift. The gains accelerated on a report that billionaire investor Warren Buffett was a potential suitor for Bear Stearns, which has been hit by credit-market problems.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 99.50, or 0.72 percent, to 13,878.15. The S&P 500 gained 8.21, or 0.54 percent, to 1,525.42. The Nasdaq composite index rose 15.58, or 0.58 percent, to 2,699.03.

Port in Jasper could be run by private company

BEAUFORT — Georgia and South Carolina are close to reaching a deal to build a shipping terminal that will be owned by both states but likely will be privately run, a top South Carolina official said.

A task force is about two weeks away from completing its plan, which will include details such as how much each state will pay for permits to build the facility, said Tom Davis, chief of staff for Gov. Mark Sanford.

One apparent change is how the port will be operated. Officials had talked about forming a joint authority. Now, Davis said leaders would prefer a private company to operate the port.

The $500 million port will be built along the Savannah River in Jasper County.

Report: Airlines need to address runway delays

WASHINGTON — Airlines oppose a new recommendation that the industry set time limits for removing passengers from delayed flights.

The Transportation Department's inspector general recommended in a report this week that all airlines define extended delays, set a limit for deplaning passengers and publicize those policies. The Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, said the deadlines would do more harm than good.

The report found that several carriers, including Delta Air Lines and US Airways, have no time limits in their customer service plans or internal policies.

Credit-rating firms under fire for possible conflicts

WASHINGTON — Executives from major credit rating agencies Wednesday were accused by senators of having conflicts of interest that might have contributed to mortgage market turmoil.

Critics say the biggest rating agencies —Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings — failed to give investors adequate warning of the risks associated with mortgage-backed securities. Those securities are plummeting in value as home-loan defaults soar.

Senators said they were particularly concerned that the agencies get paid by the companies whose bonds they rate. Executives from S&P and Moody's said their methodology was sound, but they also pledged improvement.

Wal-Mart laundry aisle to carry only liquid soaps

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart said Wednesday it will sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent, a move it says will save millions of pounds of packaging each year.

Wal-Mart said its stores account for 25 percent of U.S. liquid laundry detergent sales and that its effort will save 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic and 125 million pounds of cardboard. The company also would save fuel by transporting less mass.