Business Roundup for Thursday, February 13

General Motors cars are displayed at a California dealership (David McNew/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are closing slightly higher after several companies reported earnings gains. Goodyear Tire & Rubber surged 11 percent after the company's earnings beat analysts' estimates. Time Warner Cable rose sharply after the company agreed to be acquired by its larger rival Comcast. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 1,829 Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 63 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,027. The Nasdaq composite increased 39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,240. Time Warner Cable jumped 7 percent, while Comcast fell 4 percent. The $45 billion deal would combine the top two cable TV providers in the United States. CBS rose 5 percent after the company beat earnings estimates and reported higher revenue from licensing TV shows.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses restocked at a faster pace in December. The Commerce Department says inventories rose 0.5 percent. At the same time, sales growth slowed to just 0.1 percent. Together the figures point to a risk for the economy: if companies build stockpiles at a faster pace than their sales are growing, they may end up stuck with more goods than they need.

WASHINGTON — Winter storms appear to be undercutting the nation's economy. The latest evidence comes from the government's January retail sales report out today. It shows a drop of 0.4 percent last month. That followed a smaller decline in December. The news comes as another snowstorm blankets the eastern third of the country. All the snow and cold has some economists lowering their growth estimates for the January-March quarter.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage rates remain near historically low levels. But after sinking the past five weeks, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage edged higher this week to 4.28 percent. Freddie Mac says the average for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 3.33 percent.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A massive coal ash spill on the Dan River in North Carolina is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation. The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic ash into the river to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. The U.S. Attorney's Office has issued a grand jury subpoena requesting records from Duke Energy and the state environmental agency. Yesterday, the agency withdrew a proposed settlement over the pollution amid criticism that it shielded Duke from more expensive federal penalties.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest numbers on jobless claims show an uptick in layoffs. The Labor Department reports the number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000. However, the four week average remains roughly in line with pre-recession levels, suggesting that companies are not cutting many jobs.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The winter weather is hurting retailers. The Commerce Department says retail sales fell 0.4 percent in January, as Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants during an unusually frigid month for much of the country. Major store chains have reduced their profit outlooks, including Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest retailer.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast plans to buy Time Warner Cable for about $45.2 billion in stock. The deal would combine the nation's top two cable TV companies and create a dominant force in creating and delivering entertainment. The boards of both companies have approved the all-stock deal, which trumps a proposal from Charter Communications to buy Time Warner Cable for about $38 billion.

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is recalling nearly 780,000 older-model compact cars in North America. It says a faulty ignition switch can shut of the cars' engines without warning and cause crashes. GM says six people have been killed in 22 crashes related to the problem. All were at high speeds. The recall affects Chevrolet Cobalts from the 2005 through 2007 model years and Pontiac G5s from 2007.

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors apparently want to see further evidence the economy is improving for the stock market to advance from here. Weak earnings yesterday from Lorillard and Procter & Gamble helped end the market's longest winning streak of the year -- four days. The S&P 500 fell half a point. The Dow dropped nearly 31 points. The Nasdaq rose 10 points. Futures point to losses at this morning's opening.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — International stock markets fell today, led by a drop in Tokyo, as investors fretted upcoming U.S. indicators would show weakness in the world's biggest economy. The soft stock markets came after investors plowed back into riskier assets for several days, encouraged by improved trade figures from China and the new U.S. Federal Reserve chief's pledge to continue low interest rates. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $100 a barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.

WASHINGTON — The weekly jobless claims report will be released today. The government will also report retail sales data for January and business inventories for December. Freddie Mac will issue weekly mortgage rates. There are also quarterly earnings reports today from PepsiCo, Burger King, Kraft Foods, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Goodyear.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lenders repossessed fewer U.S. homes in January, bringing the number of completed foreclosures down to the lowest level in more than six years. Even so, many states posted sharp increases in the number of homes entering the foreclosure process for the first time. Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. says banks took back 30,226 homes last month, a drop of 4 percent from December. Completed foreclosures were down 40 percent from January last year.

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