Stocks post mixed close on investor nervousness

NEW YORK — Stocks ended a volatile session mixed Wednesday as investors wrestled with a troubling outlook for bond insurers, a $9.4 billion writedown at Morgan Stanley and a weakening economy.

Not all of Wednesday's news was bad. Morgan Stanley managed to get a $5 billion investment from a Chinese sovereign wealth fund, and the Federal Reserve said its Monday auction of $20 billion in 28-day credit was met with solid demand.

But with only six trading days left in 2007 and little data showing the economy is on the upswing, investors hesitated to make any big bets on stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.20, or 0.19 percent, to 13,207.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.98, or 0.14 percent, to 1,453.00, but the Nasdaq composite index rose 4.98, or 0.19 percent, to 2,601.01.

S.C. payday lender halts Pennsylvania operations

PHILADELPHIA — Spartanburg-based Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. has decided to close its 66 remaining shops in Pennsylvania.

The payday lender said Tuesday it expected to record about $1.5 million in charges.

In July, a state court ruled that the company violated Pennsylvania consumer law by providing loans of as much as $500 in return for 6 percent interest plus a $150 monthly fee. The Commonwealth Court said the fees exceeded limits of Pennsylvania's Consumer Discount Company Act.

Bond insurer downgrade could have ripple effect

NEW YORK — A big insurer of bonds was downgraded to "junk" status Wednesday, a move that could cost banks and local governments billions of dollars.

Standard & Poor's slashed its credit rating for ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. to a non-investment grade from investment grade "A."

That change led S&P to cut ratings on nearly 3,000 municipal bonds, which could spark a borrowing crisis, said Peter Schiff, chief executive of Euro Pacific Capital.

"Many municipalities get high credit ratings because their bonds are insured," he said. "Higher borrowing costs for cities will force them to charge higher property taxes, which will increase the strain on consumers."

Wachovia donates funds for Spoleto auditorium

Spoleto Festival USA said Wednesday that it received a $400,000 donation from the Wachovia Foundation to help fund the Memminger Auditorium renovation.

The lobby of the building, which is expected to open for Spoleto performances in May, will be named for Charlotte-based Wachovia.

The Charleston County School District owns the auditorium but has agreed to lease it to the city for at least 50 years, rent-free, in return for a promise that Spoleto will rehabilitate it.

Fund-raisers are seeking $9.45 million for the auditorium. Spoleto expects to use the building about three months a year. Schools and other groups will use it the rest of the time.