Stocks rise again on Fed loan offers

NEW YORK — Stocks seesawed to a higher close Wednesday, rallying in the last hour of trading on a rebound in financial stocks and optimism about jobs while brushing off a sharp jump in oil prices.

Investors also were relieved after the Federal Reserve said it would extend and expand a program to lend money to banks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 186.13, or 1.63 percent, to 11,583.69. The S&P 500 gained 21.06, or 1.67 percent, to 1,284.26. The Nasdaq composite index rose 10.10, or 0.44 percent, to 2,329.72.

Mortgage volume hits low for year

NEW YORK — Mortgage application volume fell last week to its lowest level of the year, as many homeowners found they don't have enough equity to refinance.

Mortgage application volume fell 14 percent last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. Refinancings led the decline, falling almost 23 percent. Purchase applications fell about 8 percent.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.46 percent from 6.59 percent the previous week, the association said. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 5.98 percent from 6.10 percent.

Rating companies face Connecticut lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut sued three of the nation's leading credit-rating firms Wednesday, alleging they gave artificially low ratings to cities and towns, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary insurance and higher interest payments.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and state Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. filed the lawsuit in Hartford against Moody's Corp., Fitch Inc. and McGraw-Hill Cos., the parent company of Standard & Poor's.

The lawsuit accuses the agencies of using a dual rating system that gives bonds issued by states, municipalities and other public entities lower credit ratings than corporate debt.

Starbucks reports loss in 3rd quarter

SEATTLE — Starbucks Corp. said Wednesday that weak sales in the U.S. and costs related to its closing of 600 stores gave it a loss in its fiscal third quarter. The coffee chain also cut its guidance for the year and said it would open fewer stores in 2008 and 2009.

The company reported a loss of $6.7 million, or 1 cent per share, compared to a profit of $158.3 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time charges, the company said it earned 16 cents per share. Analysts had forecast a profit of 18 cents per share.