Fed's credit plan fails to assuage stock investors

NEW YORK — Wall Street finished only slightly higher Wednesday as investors remained unconvinced by a Federal Reserve plan to work with other central banks to alleviate the global credit crisis.

Investors erased a 272-point gain in the Dow Jones industrial average that followed news of the Fed's pact with the European Central Bank and the central banks of England, Canada and Switzerland to confront credit-market pressures. The Fed said it will create a temporary facility to make funds available to banks and set up lines of credit with the overseas central banks for additional resources.

The Dow rose 41.13, or 0.31 percent, to 13,473.90. Broader stock indicators also were higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.94, or 0.61 percent, to 1,486.59. The Nasdaq composite index rose 18.79, or 0.71 percent, to 2,671.14.

Fee disclosure rules floated for 401(k) firms

WASHINGTON — Companies selling 401(k) services should be forced to disclose all fees and expenses that can drain money from retirement plans in writing before businesses trust them with their employees' money, the Bush administration proposed Wednesday.

The Labor Department said the regulation would "foster fair, competitive and transparent prices for services as well as combat excessive or hidden plan fees." About 80 percent of investors in 401(k) plans do not know how much fees are eroding their balances, according to a 2006 government report.

Auctioneer eBay plans to root out unethical sellers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Online auctioneer eBay will focus on improving the "user experience" in 2008 in hopes of making the company more satisfying for its millions of users, an executive said.

Engineers made significant upgrades to the home page this year and made the search engine faster. Next year they'll focus on rooting out sellers with unethical or questionable strategies, said John Donahoe, president of eBay Marketplaces.

Some sellers lure shoppers with extremely low fixed prices or auctions that start at a penny, then charge disproportionate fees to mail the items.

Charlotte's big banks bracing for choppy seas

CHARLOTTE — Wachovia Corp. doubled its estimate of loan loss provisions to about $1 billion for the fourth quarter Wednesday, while the head of rival Bank of America Corp. said he expects credit market turbulence to extend into 2008.

The disclosures come as a number of the nations' big banks have forecast increasing credit losses in the wake of last summer's subprime mortgage crisis.

Bank of America's chief executive, Ken Lewis, said he expects "weak fourth and first quarters, but at this point we are not forecasting a recession. I think you certainly can assume results will again be quite disappointing."

Oil, imports push trade deficit to 3-month high

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit rose to its highest level in three months, with record oil prices and a flood of toys and other imports from China swamping a solid gain in American exports.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday the deficit for October increased to $57.8 billion, 1.2 percent above the September. The deficit with China jumped 9.1 percent to $25.9 billion, a record for a single month.