Stocks get slight boost after Fed rate decision

NEW YORK — Wall Street ended an erratic day with a modest gain after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and issued a mixed assessment of the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 4.40, or 0.04 percent, at 11,811.83. A sharp drop in shares of Boeing Co. dragged on the blue chips.

Broader stock indicators logged stronger gains. The S&P 500 gained 7.68, or 0.58 percent, to 1,321.97, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 32.98, or 1.39 percent, to 2,401.26.

Countrywide investors vote to allow sale

LOS ANGELES — Countrywide Financial said 69 percent of its outstanding shares were voted Wednesday in favor of the mortgage giant's takeover by Bank of America.

The deal is expected to close Tuesday. Countrywide agreed to be sold in January for about $4 billion in stock. The deal now is valued at $2.8 billion, reflecting a drop in Bank of America's stock price.

Billionaire Buffett says economy softening

OMAHA, Neb. — Billionaire Warren Buffett has already said he thinks the U.S. economy is in a recession, and now he says the economy is getting worse.

Buffett told CNBC that all the data he sees from Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries shows the economy weakening. "Everything connected with construction and with consumer, I see weakness, and if anything, it's accentuating a little bit."

Buffett also said he thinks inflation is picking up, especially in steel and oil.

J.C. Penney trims plans to grow store base

PLANO, Texas — J.C. Penney Co. will further slow the pace of department store openings and cut capital spending next year because of the economy. The company said Wednesday it plans 20 new or relocated stores next year, down from the 36 it expects to open this year.

J.C. Penney once had planned 50 new stores a year through 2011. CEO Myron E. Ullman said the retailer expects next year "to remain very challenging for the consumer."

May new home sales, prices show decline

WASHINGTON — New home sales tumbled for the sixth time in seven months in May while median prices kept falling, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

New homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 512,000 units in May, down 2.5 percent from April. The median price was $231,000, down 5.7 percent from a year earlier. The inventory of unsold homes rose to 10.9 months in May, meaning it would take that long to exhaust the current supply.