Slight gains send Dow above 29K
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 29,000 mark for the first time and the S&P 500 index hit its second record high in three days Wednesday.
The milestones came on a day when the market traded in a narrow range as investors weighed the latest batch of corporate earnings reports and the widely anticipated signing of an initial trade deal between the U.S. and China.
President Donald Trump and China's chief negotiator signed the "Phase 1" deal before a group of corporate executives and reporters at the White House. The pact eases some sanctions on China. In return, Beijing has agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm products and other goods.
"This was telegraphed well enough that the market is kind of looking through it and toward the next phase and what that means," said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments.
Health care stocks accounted for much of the market's gains. Utilities and makers of household goods also rose. Those gains outweighed losses in financial stocks, companies that rely on consumer spending and the energy sector.
Target didn't have Merry Xmas
NEW YORK — Target reported a rare shortfall in holiday sales, raising concerns about the challenges ahead for the traditional retail industry even as the economy remains strong.
Target's disappointing growth of 1.4 percent for November and December, dragged down by toys and electronics, fell well below the previous year. Target joined a growing list of retailers reporting meager performances during the critical holiday shopping season.
Target cut its expectations for same-store sales growth for the entire quarter Wednesday.
The latest evidence of weak numbers from a major retailer cast a pall over the entire sector, with investors leery of any hints that the consumer, a major driver of the U.S. economy, is getting nervous.
But analysts say the consumer remains financially strong, and some blamed increasing competition from not only Amazon but a slew of online competitors, from mattress maker Casper to home goods purveyor Wayfair.
BofA profit falls with lower rates
NEW YORK — Consumer banking giant Bank of America said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profits fell 4% from a year ago, as the bank was impacted by the rapid decline of interest rates in late 2019.
The Charlotte-based bank said Wednesday that it earned a profit of $6.99 billion, or 74 cents a share, down from a profit of $7.29 billion, or 70 cents per share a year ago. BofA bought back roughly 900 million shares between 2018 and 2019, which is why the per-share earnings rose while the bank's overall profit fell.
Still the bank's profits beat expectations. Analysts were looking for BofA to earn 68 cents per share.
Bank of America, the nation's second-largest bank by assets and one of the largest operating in South Carolina, is particularly impacted by movements in interest rates since it sells a range of consumer banking products, and its balance sheet is more aligned with short-term bonds and other securities. That made the bank more sensitive to the Federal Reserve's decision last year to cut short-term interest rates three times to shore up the U.S. economy.
Nissan adds to Takata recall saga
DETROIT — Nissan is recalling nearly 346,000 vehicles worldwide to replace dangerous Takata air bag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel.
The Nissan front passenger inflators are among 10 million from 14 different automakers that Takata is recalling. It's the last recall that the bankrupt Takata agreed to in a 2015 settlement with U.S. safety regulators.
The Nissan recall covers certain 2001-2003 Maximas, 2002 through 2006 Sentras, 2002 through 2004 Pathfinders, and 2007 through 2011 Versas. Also included are 2001 through 2004 Infiniti I30 and I35s, 2002 through 2003 QX4s, 2003 through 2008 FX35 and FX45s and 2006 through 2010 M35 and M45s.
Owners will be notified and dealers will replace the inflators starting around Feb. 10, at no cost to owners.
Most of the recalled vehicles are in North America.
GM: 1,350 temps to be full-timers
DETROIT — More than 1,350 temporary workers at 14 General Motors facilities in the U.S. will get full-time positions before the end of March, the company says.
The workers will start at $21 to $24 per hour depending on their seniority and will get improved health care benefits at a low cost, dental and vision benefits, company 401(k) contributions and annual profit-sharing checks.
Eventually they'll reach the top wage for a full-time production worker of $32.32 per hour. The manufacturing plants and other sites are in Michigan, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky, GM said Wednesday in a statement.
The workers got a path to full-time status in contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the company. The agreement came after a contentious 40-day strike last fall that crippled GM's U.S. production and cost the company well over $1 billion.
Wholesale prices up slightly in Dec.
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose a slight 0.1 percent in December as a jump in the cost of energy was offset by falling food prices.
The Labor Department said Wednesday the December increase in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, followed no change in November.
Energy prices were up 1.5 percent, more than double the November gain, with gasoline costs up 3.7 percent and heating oil up 7.7 percent, the biggest monthly gain in two years.
Food costs were down 0.2 percent, the first drop since August, with the biggest drop in beef prices in more than two years offsetting a jump in the price of chicken.
For the year, wholesale prices are up a modest 1.3 percent, down from a 2.6 percent gain in 2018.
German growth at slowest pace in 6 years
BERLIN — The German economy expanded by 0.6 percent last year, its worst performance since 2013, as export growth slowed and manufacturing was weak.
It was the 10th consecutive year of growth, the longest period since Germany was reunited in 1990, the Federal Statistical Office said Wednesday. But growth was much slower than in the past few years and it was the worst performance since Europe's biggest economy expanded by 0.4 percent in 2013.
The figure, while in line with economists' forecasts, was less than half the 1.5 percent rate booked in 2018.
Germany is one fo South Carolina's largest trading partners.
Amazon to invest $1 billion in India
NEW DELHI — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Wednesday that his company plans to invest $1 billion in digitizing small and medium businesses in India.
Bezos, who is currently on a three-day visit, also said that Amazon is going to use it size, scale and global footprint to export $10 billion in goods made in India by 2025.
He addressed representatives of small and medium businesses in New Delhi. Amazon.com launched e-commerce in India through Amazon India in 2013.
"We are super excited about this. We are making this announcement now because it is working. When something works you should double down on that," he said.
More than 550,000 merchants sell on Amazon India and more than 60,000 Indian manufacturers and brands are exporting their products to customers worldwide through Amazon, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.