Stocks retreat ahead of earnings, jobless reports

NEW YORK — Stocks retreated Wednesday as investors waited to see how corporate earnings and the job market have held up in an uneven economy.

The market showed little conviction for a second day as economic readings offered few surprises and as investors looked for signs — possibly from the September employment report due Friday — of whether the market's sharp rebound from mid-August lows has been warranted. The S&P 500 lost 7.02, or 0.45 percent, to 1,539.61.

Airlines losing ground in on-time performance

WASHINGTON — The airline industry's dismal on-time performance in 2007 continued in August, with nearly 30 percent of flights delayed.

The nation's 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 71.7 percent in August, down from 75.8 percent a year earlier, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Wednesday.

The Delta Connection carrier, which is owned by SkyWest Inc., had the lowest on-time arrival rate at 55 percent, followed by United Airlines at 66.2 percent and Alaska Airlines at 67.1 percent.

Judge awards Wal-Mart workers more cash in Pa.

PHILADELPHIA — Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania who won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will share another $62.3 million in damages, a judge ruled Wednesday.

About 125,000 people will get $500 each under a state law invoked when a company, without cause, withholds pay for more than 30 days. A jury last year rejected Wal-Mart's claim that some people chose to work through breaks or that a few minutes of extra work here and there were insignificant.

Mortgage turmoil spurs investment bank layoffs

NEW YORK — Bear Stearns Cos. said Wednesday it is laying off 310 workers and merging its Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage and Encore Credit mortgage businesses after turmoil in the industry contributed to a slide in the investment bank's profit this summer.

The news came hours after Credit Suisse Group announced a fresh round of layoffs in its commercial mortgage-backed securities division.

EU regulators again OK Sony-Bertelsmann deal

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission gave Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG unconditional clearance Wednesday to combine their music units, concluding that the deal, originally approved in 2004, was not monopolistic. The EU's executive arm approved the deal for a second time after a court rejected the original, which formed the world's second-largest record label, over antitrust concerns and told regulators to look at it again.