Stocks fall for 4th consecutive day

NEW YORK -- The stock market has fallen for the fourth straight day after a mixed batch of readings on consumer spending contributed to a muddled picture of the economy.

The major indexes fluctuated all day in light trading. Many traders were on vacation, and those who were working had little reason to make major moves because of economic data that remain confusing.

The latest reports fell in line with a long string of conflicting data that has left investors unsure about where the economy is headed. The Dow Jones industrial average has lost almost 400 points in four days.

The Federal Reserve's policy meeting on Tuesday took a toll on stocks this week after the central bank noted that the recovery was slowing.

Cost of gas drives uptick in inflation

WASHINGTON -- A rise in the cost of gas drove consumer prices up last month by the most in nearly a year, but overall inflation remained tame.

The Consumer Price Index, the government's most closely watched inflation measure, increased 0.3 percent in July, the Labor Department said. That followed three months of declines.

Pushing the index up was a 4.6 percent increase in the price of gas. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the so-called "core" price index increased 0.1 percent in July.

Over the past year, consumer prices rose 1.2 percent, the slowest pace in 44 years.

GM might file IPO papers next week

DETROIT -- General Motors is likely to file paperwork next week that describes its plan to sell shares to the public, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

The automaker had planned to file the papers on Friday but delayed the move to build distance between the filing and two major announcements it made on Thursday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the company is not commenting publicly on the stock sale.

GM said Thursday that CEO Edward Whitacre would step down Sept. 1 and be replaced by board member Daniel Akerson. It also reported a $1.3 billion second-quarter profit, its second straight positive quarter.

Energy firm to go private for $543M

NEW YORK -- Asset manager Blackstone Group said Friday it is paying $543 million to take Dynegy Inc. private in a three-way deal that will see Dynegy also sell four power plants to NRG Energy.

Blackstone is taking on more than $4 billion in Dynegy debt as well, bringing the deal's total value to $4.7 billion.

Eurozone's growth led by Germany

LONDON -- The economy of the 16 countries that use the euro grew by a better-than-expected 1 percent during the second quarter as growth engine Germany expanded at its fastest pace since reunification two decades ago.

Thursday's quarter-on-quarter figures showed that the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years, and faster than the U.S. during the same quarter.

That defied expectations from just a couple of months ago, when Europe was threatened by a severe government debt crisis.