Stocks are mixed as banks drop late

NEW YORK — Nagging worries about banks on Wall Street upended a stock market rally Wednesday.

Financial stocks steered the market for the third straight day after Morgan Stanley and Capital One Financial Corp. posted lackluster quarterly reports. Investors have been worried about souring debt on bank balance sheets.

A late-session drop in banks left Wall Street's major benchmarks mixed.

The jumpy trading in financial shares came just as major companies report first-quarter earnings. Results from AT&T, Boeing and McDonald's contained glimmers of hope about consumer spending and the economy in general.

Two local tugboats to cut their emissions

Local tugboat operator Moran Charleston will switch half of its fleet to cleaner fuel, thanks to grant funding from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Moran will upgrade one tug, its largest in Charleston, to ultra-low sulfur diesel and another to a biodiesel blend.

Funding from the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act will cover 75 percent of the price difference in switching to cleaner fuel, which costs 10 to 22 cents more per gallon. The company will pay for the rest.

Biomass power plant to come to Hartsville

COLUMBIA — Peregrine Energy Corp. said Wednesday it will build a $135 million wood biomass-fueled power plant at Sonoco's Hartsville manufacturing complex. It's expected the plant will open in 2012, The State newspaper reported.

Peregrine said the plant will be capable of making enough electricity for about 14,000 homes. The project will use waste from logging as fuel.

The plant will create as many as 300 jobs during construction and employ about 30 full-time workers when operating. The gathering, processing and transporting of woody biomass to the plant could create more than 110 extra jobs.

Apple iPhone sales help boost profits

ATLANTA — Strong sales of the iPhone helped Apple Inc. lift its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of expectations Wednesday despite the economic downturn.

For the three months ended March 28, Apple's fiscal second-quarter earnings rose to $1.21 billion. Sales increased 9 percent to $8.16 billion, topping analyst expectations for $7.96 billion.

Wachovia's owner earns $2.4 billion

CHARLOTTE — Wells Fargo & Co. said Wednesday it made $2.4 billion in the first quarter, a huge turnaround from the loss in the previous earnings period. Those earnings are measured after the bank paid $661 million in dividends on preferred shares, more than half of which went to the U.S. government.

Like other banks, Wells benefited from huge demand for mortgages and a recent change in accounting rules that gives banks more leeway in how they value distressed assets.

And it said it's benefiting from its purchase of Wachovia Corp., as well as its decision to go ahead and take most of Wachovia's expected losses in the fourth quarter rather than over time.