Business news for Thursday, December 12.

The 90th Lighting Of The New York Stock Exchange Christmas Tree outside of New York Stock Exchange ( Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street may be headed for a third-straight day of declines. Stocks are slipping in early trading as prospects for a budget deal and more signs of a U.S. recovery suggest that the Federal Reserve may wind down its support for the economy.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has jumped by the largest amount in more than a year. The Labor Department says applications rose by 68,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. The surge is thought to reflect the difficulty adjusting for delays after the Thanksgiving holiday. The less volatile four-week average rose by 6,000 to 328,750, which is close to pre-recession levels.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers seem to be growing more confident about the economy this holiday season. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 0.7 percent in November, the biggest gain in five months. Consumers ramped up spending on cars, appliances and furniture and made more purchases online. October's figure was also revised higher to 0.6 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department says U.S. companies boosted their stockpiles in October at the fastest rate in nine months. Business inventories increased 0.7 percent, following a 0.6 percent gain in September. And sales rose 0.5 percent, following a 0.3 percent gain the previous month.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average rates for fixed mortgages have eased slightly this week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.42 percent from 4.46 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan dipped to 3.43 percent from 3.47 percent. Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August and have stabilized since September. They remain near historic lows.

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market begins a new day after suffering its biggest loss in five weeks on Wednesday. The S&P 500 index fell 20 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,782 yesterday -- the index's biggest decline since Nov. 7. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 130 points, or 0.8 percent, to 15,843. And the Nasdaq composite fell 57 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,003. Futures spoint to small gains at this morning's opening.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — International stock markets extended losses today after an apparent budget deal in the U.S. Congress reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will cut its monetary stimulus as early as next week. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to remain below $97.50 a barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen.

WASHINGTON — The government's weekly jobless claims number will be released today. That could be a market-mover. Other reports scheduled for release include two from the Commerce Department: One is November's retail sales data; the other is October's business inventories. Also today, Freddie Mac will release the weekly mortgage rates.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — While foreclosures remain a concern in select states, the overall number of homes entering the path to foreclosure or repossession by lenders has fallen to levels not seen in more than six years. It's the latest sign foreclosures are becoming less of a national factor on the housing recovery. Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac says lenders initiated foreclosure action against 52,826 homes in November, down 10 percent from the previous month and 32 percent from November 2012.

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil says the drive for higher living standards around the world will keep demand for electricity and transportation fuels growing even as economies get more efficient and governments put a price on pollution. The company's annual long-term energy outlook predicts world energy demand will grow 35 percent by 2040. Exxon uses its outlook to shape its investments.



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