Stocks edge higher, but banks are pulled down

NEW YORK -- Stock indexes gave up early losses and edged higher Wednesday after several reports signaled encouraging news on the economy.

Financial stocks fell broadly after the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase said the bank's losses from mortgages will continue.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the first big bank to release first-quarter earnings, reported net income that beat expectations. But CEO Jamie Dimon said JPMorgan and other banks likely will pay more fees and penalties after investigations into foreclosure proceedings in all 50 states are finished.

JPMorgan lost 0.8 percent, Bank of America fell 1.5 percent and Wells Fargo & Co. lost 2.3 percent.

--The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.41 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 12,270.99.

--The S&P 500 index rose 0.25, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,314.41.

--The Nasdaq composite index gained 16.73, or 0.6 percent, to 2,761.52.

S.C. welding firm to bring jobs to hard-hit county

UNION -- A welding company is bringing 100 new jobs to an area with some of the highest unemployment in South Carolina.

Gov. Nikki Haley announced Wednesday that ESAB Welding & Cutting Products is building a $19 million manufacturing facility in Union County. It should open by the end of the year. The company says it plans to make welding wire in the 250,000-square-foot building.

Union County had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in South Carolina in February at 16.7 percent.

ESAB's business offices are in Columbia, and it has another facility in Florence. Together those operations employ 550 people.

Fed: U.S. economy on mend; oil is of concern

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy improved in every region of the country this spring, but higher oil prices remain a concern, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve.

Factories were busier, consumers spent more and companies boosted hiring in all 12 of the regions surveyed by the Fed. But the report also found that high energy prices are putting pressure on businesses to raise their prices. And workers are seeing limited, if any, pay increases.

Scant wage gains are a major reason Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says inflation won't spread through the economy this year. That's limiting businesses ability to raise prices.

American Air ups stakes in legal spat with Orbitz

FORT WORTH, Texas -- American Airlines raised the stakes in its battle with ticket sellers by suing travel website Orbitz and distributor Travelport Ltd., accusing them of monopoly tactics.

American says the companies are trying to control the distribution of airline tickets to business travelers and are retaliating against American for objecting. Orbitz and Travelport denied the charges.

American's antitrust lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Texas, is the latest twist in an ongoing battle that led American to pull its flight listings from Orbitz in December.

Fund manager nabbed in insider trading probe

NEW YORK -- An Ivy League-trained physician who became a health care hedge fund portfolio manager surrendered Wednesday to face charges he evaded $30 million in losses for his funds by paying a French doctor for secrets on the progress of a liver disease drug.

Joseph Skowron of Greenwich, Conn., was charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He formerly worked at FrontPoint Partners, where he oversaw six health care-related hedge funds. He was freed on $6 million bail.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the case "yet another example of blatant cheating of both the market and the ordinary investor." He said Skowron was the 47th person arrested in the past 18 months on insider trading charges.