Business roundup for Thursday, January 9.

Logo of Snapchat is seen at the front entrance of their headquarters in Venice, California (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are edging lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street. Traders are digesting some mixed news from retailers and looking ahead to third-quarter earnings releases. Aluminum maker Alcoa reports its earnings after the closing bell.

NEW YORK (AP) — Several major retailers have slashed their fiscal fourth-quarter profit forecasts this week in the latest sign that Americans didn't spend briskly during the holiday season. American Eagle Outfitters and Bed Bath & Beyond are among seven retail chains that have cut their expectations for their fiscal fourth quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season.

NEW YORK (AP) — Snapchat has released an update to its disappearing-photo app following a security breach last week that exposed the phone numbers of millions of users. It says the update to its Android and iPhone apps improves the functionality of the "Find Friends" feature, which was at the heart of the breach. Users can now also avoid linking their usernames with phone numbers.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he is cautiously optimistic that a compromise is close on legislation to renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. The Nevada Democrat made his comments at a news conference. He provided no details. The Senate has been working on a three-month extension of a program that expired on Dec. 28. Republicans have said they will only agree to renew the program if the costs are paid for.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Workers commuting from San Francisco to Google's Mountain View campus can now make the trip on an 83-foot, Wi-Fi-equipped catamaran. Google has launched a free ferry service from San Francisco to the Port of Redwood City, where employees can hop a private bus to work. Google is hoping to defuse a controversy over the shuttle buses that several Silicon Valley companies use.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000. The less volatile four-week average dropped 9,750 to 349,000. Applications appear to have stabilized near pre-recession levels after a period of volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The government releases the December jobs report tomorrow.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages have barely moved this week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average for the 30-year loan slipped to 4.51 percent from 4.53 percent last week. The average for the 15-year loan edged up to 3.56 percent from 3.55 percent. Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since hitting record lows a year ago.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford is raising the quarterly dividend it pays shareholders for the second time since restoring the payout in 2012. The second-largest U.S. automaker says its board has declared a first-quarter dividend of 12.5 cents per share, a 25 percent increase from the previous 10-cent payout. The new dividend is payable on March 3 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Jan. 31.

NEW YORK (AP) — IBM's Watson supercomputer is getting its own business division and a new home in the heart of New York City. IBM says the new business will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of the project that first gained fame by defeating a pair of "Jeopardy!" champions in 2011. IBM has since been developing Watson for more practical uses, ranging from health care to banking. The company is building a headquarters for the division near New York University.

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors are hoping the stock market resumes its winning ways today. It sputtered yesterday extending what has been a tentative start to 2014. The Dow lost 68 points yesterday, closing at 16,462. The S&P 500 fell a fraction of a point to 1,837. But the Nasdaq rose 12 points to 4,165. Futures point to lackluster trading at this morning's opening.

BEIJING (AP) — International stock markets were muted today amid concern an improved U.S. economy might prompt the Federal Reserve to reduce its stimulus faster than previously expected. The dollar fell against the euro and gained against the yen. Benchmark crude oil rose to near $93 a barrel.

UNDATED (AP) -- The government will release the weekly jobless claims number today. It could be a market mover but traders are really focused on December's employment data which comes out Friday. The weekly mortgage rate report from Freddie Mac will be released today as will December sales comparisons from selected chain retailers. Also, Alcoa reports its quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank is confronting a weak recovery and low inflation as its top officials hold their monthly interest-rate meeting today. The monetary authority for the 18 countries that use the euro has already cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low 0.25 percent in an effort to stimulate growth. Analysts say the ECB probably won't take further action at this meeting, but might do so later.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The chiefs of Samsung and Apple will meet to discuss settling a bitter two year legal battle over designs and technologies of smartphones and tablets. A filing with the U.S. District court in San Jose shows that senior legal executives from Apple and Samsung agreed earlier this week that the CEOs will meet by or before Feb. 19 in response to a court order to submit a proposal for settlement discussions.

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