Stocks post mixed finish on rise in price index

NEW YORK — Stocks finished a volatile session mixed Thursday after a spike in wholesale prices touched off inflation concerns and partially overshadowed a strong increase in retail sales.

The government's main measure of wholesale inflation, the Producer Price Index, jumped 3.2 percent in November, its biggest increase in 34 years, on a steep rise in gasoline prices. Even excluding energy and food prices, the index's 0.4 percent increase was more than economists expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 44.06, or 0.33 percent, to 13,517.96. The S&P 500 gained 1.82, or 0.12 percent, to 1,488.41. The Nasdaq composite index lost 2.65, or 0.10 percent, to 2,668.49.

Germany's Lufthansa to acquire stake in JetBlue

FRANKFURT, Germany — German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG said Thursday it is paying $300 million for a 19 percent stake in JetBlue, in its first foray into the U.S. airline market.

Germany's biggest airline said it would buy about 42 million shares from New York-based JetBlue for $7.27 per share, a 16 percent premium over Wednesday's closing price.

The deal also provides that the carriers would seek "an operation cooperation."

Home loans more costly as interest rates creep up

WASHINGTON — Mortgage rates, which had been sliding, went up this week, disappointing news to would-be home buyers.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.11 percent, up from last week's rate of 5.96 percent, which was the lowest in more than two years. Until this week, rates on 30-year mortgages had been falling or holding steady each week since the middle of October.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular refinancing choice, rose to 5.78 percent, from 5.65 percent last week.

Higher sales, fees help boost earnings at Costco

SEATTLE — Warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. said Thursday that its fiscal first-quarter profit rose 11 percent on increased sales and higher revenue from membership fees.

Costco reported earnings of $262 million, or 59 cents per share, for the 12 weeks ended Nov. 25. Quarterly revenue rose 12 percent to $15.81 billion.

Dow Chemical will sell to Kuwaiti company

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dow Chemical, the world's second-largest chemical maker, said Thursday it plans to sell a 50 percent interest in five of its global businesses to a Kuwaiti company for about $9.5 billion and form a new joint petrochemicals venture.

Dow said the deal with Petrochemical Industries Co. is subject to completion of definitive agreements and regulatory approvals. Dow expects the deal to close in late 2008.

The joint venture will be based in the U.S. and will employ more than 5,000 people worldwide, mostly current Dow employees, the company said.