Stocks gain...Holiday sales grow...Home price growth slows
UNDATED (AP) — Investors returned from the Christmas holiday break in a buying mood Wednesday, sending U.S. stocks sharply higher and placing the market on track for its best day in nine months. Benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed 7.5 percent to just below $46 a barrel. The dollar strengthened against the yen and the euro.
NEW YORK (AP) — Americans buoyed by a strong economy pushed holiday sales growth to a six-year high. Retail sales rose 5.1 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year ago, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracked spending online and in stores across all payment types, including those who paid by cash or check. Mastercard said total sales topped $850 billion this year. Online sales continued to grow, up more than 19 percent from a year ago.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home price growth slowed in October, a likely consequence of higher mortgage rates having worsened affordability and causing sales to fall. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5 percent from a year earlier, down from an annual gain of 5.2 percent in September, according to a Wednesday report. Home prices have dropped as would-be buyers are struggling to afford homes.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is grappling with a seemingly endless cycle of money laundering schemes that law enforcement officials say they’re scrambling to slow through a combination of prosecution and public awareness. Of particular concern is a trend involving “money mules.” Money mules are persuaded, sometimes with the incentive of keeping a cut of the funds, into allowing money transfers to their own bank accounts at the direction of a fraudster they may mistake for an online friend or romantic partner, a military officer overseas or an employer.
NEW YORK (AP) — Although the economy and consumer spending have been strong, some business owners, particularly those who sell big-ticket items and services, are feeling the effects of volatility in stocks that has persisted for much of this year. And some companies seeking investors are finding some resistance, even from people who a few months ago were eager to put their money down. Kathy Barnes, who helps small business owners manage their projects, says her clients are worried that the bull market that gave customers the confidence to do major work on their homes is at an end.