Business Roundup for Tuesday, February 25.

The Bitcoin Center of New York City (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)


(NEW YORK) - The U.S. stock market is ending slightly lower after a choppy day of trading. Major indexes moved between small gains and losses for much of the day Tuesday, then drifted steadily lower in the last hour of trading. Traders were discouraged by a surprisingly large drop in consumer confidence in February. The worst drops were in areas affected by the extreme cold weather and storms of the past few weeks. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined two points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 1,845. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,179. The Nasdaq composite fell five points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,287. Tenet Healthcare fell 9 percent after the hospital management company reported a loss in the fourth quarter.

TOKYO (AP) — One of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges appears to have collapsed. A coalition of virtual currency companies says Tokyo-based Mt. Gox went under after secretly racking up catastrophic losses. Mt. Gox's website wasn't functioning today. That follows the resignation Sunday of its CEO from the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, a group seeking legitimacy for the new form of money. Prominent supporters of bitcoin are calling Mt. Gox's collapse an isolated case of mismanagement.

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's Pueblo County says it collected $56,000 in sales taxes from the two recreational marijuana stores that opened there in January. Officials say the two shops had about $1 million in total sales that month. Three more stores opened in Pueblo County in February, and officials expect the marijuana industry will generate roughly $670,000 in tax revenue for the county by the end of the year.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A team of academic researchers estimates about 35 million gallons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater spilled into a North Carolina river earlier this month from Duke Energy's coal ash dump in Eden. Wake Forest University researchers used aerial photos collected by a drone to create a three-dimensional model of the pit and calculate the volume of toxic ash that flowed out when a pipe collapsed. The size of the spill could be key to determining the fines the company may be assessed for the spill.

PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — A congressman says federal officials have launched a criminal probe of a Northern California slaughterhouse that recently recalled more than 8.7 million pounds of beef. Rep. Jared Huffman says he learned about the investigation of the Rancho Feeding Corp. from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA has said Rancho processed diseased and unhealthy animals and circumvented federal inspection rules. The recalled beef was sold at Walmart and other national chains and used in products, including Hot Pockets.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as brutally cold weather, tight supply and higher costs slowed sales. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 percent from November to December, matching the previous month's decline. For all of 2013, however, prices rose by a healthy 13.4 percent, mostly because of big gains earlier in the year. That was the largest gain in eight years.

UNDATED (AP) — JPMorgan plans 8,000 layoffs this year as its mortgage and retail banking businesses shrink. About half of those job cuts had already been announced, but it's cutting more jobs than planned as it tries to keep expenses down. The new job cuts are split between its mortgage and retail banking businesses. They're on top of 16,500 layoffs last year in those areas.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence fell slightly in February over concerns about the near-term outlook for business conditions and jobs. The Conference Board says that its confidence index dipped to 78.1 in February, down from 79.4 in January. Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says the index still suggests consumers believe the economy has improved although they do not expect it to gain significant momentum in coming months.

TOKYO (AP) — Negotiators have ended talks on a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade pact without a final agreement today, but they say they're pleased with the progress they've made in Singapore. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says differences with Japan over its tariffs on agricultural imports, including a nearly 800 percent import tax on rice, remain an important issue. Another round of talks is planned, possibly in May in China.

BEIJING (AP) — International stock markets were mostly lower today amid jitters about China's housing market and weakness in the country's currency. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to just over $102 a barrel. The dollar fell against the yen and was little changed against the euro.

UNDATED (AP) — Among major business and economic reports today, Standard & Poor's releases the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for December and the fourth quarter. And the Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for February. Among the quarterly reports due are those from Home Depot Inc. and Macy's Inc.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. car owners are carrying higher auto loan balances but still making timely monthly payments. Date released by credit reporting agency TransUnion show that auto loan debt per borrower grew 4.4 percent, to $16,769 in the final quarter of 2013, compared to a year earlier. It was the 11th consecutive quarter to post an annual increase.

TOKYO (AP) — Mt. Gox may have fallen. The website of the major Bitcoin exchange is offline today amid reports it suffered a debilitating theft, a new setback for efforts to gain legitimacy for the virtual currency. A "crisis strategy" report shared widely online that purports to be an internal Mt. Gox document says more than 740,000 Bitcoins are missing -- with a potential value of $350 million in losses.

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