Dour views weigh on stock markets

WASHINGTON -- Stocks closed moderately lower Friday as investors' pessimistic view of the economy deepened.

There was little reason for investors to buy. There were no reports to offset Thursday's disappointing news that growth in the domestic economy continues to slow. Most major indexes also fell moderately.

"We're not seeing any significant growth prospects," said Peter Costa, president of Empire Executions. "Why be in the market if there's no (near-term) prospects for growth?"

Oil prices fell again on worries that demand will wane if economic growth remains tepid. Energy stocks were among the worst performers on the day.

Overseas markets also fell, reacting to reports Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose last week and manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region shrank.

Lower costs help Smucker's income

CHICAGO -- J.M. Smucker Co.'s net income rose 5 percent during its fiscal first quarter on lower costs, though the company was squeezed by higher coffee bean prices and price competition on store shelves.

The maker of Jif peanut butter, Folgers coffee and other foods said Friday that it earned $102.9 million for the quarter. That's up from $98.1 million in the same quarter last year.

But most of the improved profit came as the company cut costs and recorded lower integration costs for acquisitions. The company acquired the Folger's brand from Procter & Gamble in 2008. Smucker's revenue was nearly flat at $1.05 billion.

Bankruptcy plan in peril at Tribune

WILMINGTON, Del. -- The Tribune Co.'s plan to emerge from bankruptcy has unraveled in the wake of an independent report concluding that talks leading up to the media company's 2007 leveraged buyout bordered on fraud, attorneys said Friday.

The report released last month by a court-appointed examiner forced Tribune and its creditors to rethink a settlement agreement that formed the basis of its reorganization plan.

Hormel profits up despite expenses

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NEW YORK -- Hormel Foods Corp. said strong sales of its grocery products such as Hormel Chili helped its net income rise 11 percent in the third quarter despite higher commodity costs.

The maker of Spam, Dinty Moore and other foods on Friday raised its earnings guidance for the year on the results, but the CEO said the company continues to face rising costs, especially for pork.

The meat industry is slowly recovering after a downturn brought on by high ingredient costs and low selling prices because of oversupply and weak demand. As demand improves, the meat producers have cut production, causing prices to rise.

Local call center says it's seeking to fill jobs

Call center operator iQor Inc. said Friday that it plans to hire as many as 150 workers for its North Charleston location.

The company said it is accepting applications on its website, It also will hold a local job fair 3-7 p.m. Tuesday at its local offices, 8440 Dorchester Road in North Charleston.