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July 14, 2009 at 7:51 PM
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Stocks end day slightly up

NEW YORK, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes closed a ho-hum trading day Tuesday up slightly on news that two U.S. measurements were up for June.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished trading up 27.81, or 0.33 percent, at 8,359.49 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 closed at 905.84 points, up 4.79, or 0.53 percent. The Nasdaq composite index ended the day at 1,799.73, up 6.52, or 0.36 percent.

The Product Price Index and the Retail Price Index both posted gains of 0.6 percent in June.

On the New York Stock Exchange, late-afternoon trading had a volume of 4.1 billion shares.

The so-so activity came as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the Production Price Index rose 0.6 percent in June, the best gain in five months.

Retail sales of $342.1 billion for June rose 0.6 percent over May, but still remained 9.0 percent below June 2008, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Bonds dropped in value, with yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rising to 3.426 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average ended up 2.3 percent, snapping a nine-session losing streak.

London's FTSE added 0.8 percent.

In international currency trading, the dollar was at 1.3980 against the euro Tuesday, compared with 1.3996 the previous day. Against the yen, the dollar was at 93.08, compared with 92.93 Monday.

Oil falls, gas rises at trading close

NEW YORK, July 14 (UPI) -- Crude oil futures reversed field, closing down for Tuesday's U.S. commodity trading, with the per-barrel price falling 17 cents to $59.52.

Demand concerns were raised by a U.S. Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales rose in June but the increase was tempered by weakness in several sectors.

"I do not think that the economic news was exciting enough to keep the buyers interested," Phil Flynn, vice president at futures trading firm PFGBest Research, told MarketWatch.

Also released Tuesday was report by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, saying global oil demand will fall by 1.6 million barrels a day in 2009 from a year ago. It also said the cartel boosted it production in June for the third straight month.

Gasoline gained 0.87 cent to close at $1.6466 a gallon and heating oil ended trading up 0.81 cent, or $1.5119 a gallon.

Natural gas climbed 16.6 cents to $3.429 per million British thermal units.

Back-to-school shopping hits hard economy

WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- Back-to-school shopping for children is expected to drop 8 percent as parents react to an economy mired in recession, a study released Tuesday indicated.

The National Retail Federation study also indicated shopping for collegians is expected to dip 4 percent, USA Today reported Tuesday.

BIGresearch, which conducted the survey of 8,367 consumers for the retail trade group based in Washington, said those who are going away for school likely will spend more. However, researchers tempered their remarks by noting more young people indicated they are postponing pursuing advanced degrees or planning to live at home while attending school.

"The economy is forcing young adults to make hard decisions about which schools to attend, where to live, and what's really a 'necessity' for college," NRF Chief Executive Officer Tracy Mullin said.

For the American Council on Education, the economic downturn is expected to generate higher enrollments at post-secondary institutions -- much as lousy economic times have previously.

ACE, a trade association of two- and four-year colleges and universities also based in Washington, is predicting an increase of 4 percent to 5 percent in enrollment this fall, based on conversations with "hundreds of college and university officials," says Terry Hartle, ACE senior vice president. "But it's quite possible individuals won't be spending as much ... on non-essentials."

Florida settles $2.3M price-gouging case

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 14 (UPI) -- Florida officials said they have reached a $2.3 million settlement with a major fuel supplier, the largest ever under the Sunshine State's price-gouging law.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said the settlement was reached with Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc. and its gas storage and transportation subsidiary, TransMontaigne Product Service Inc., after the state received complaints about price hikes after Hurricane Ike in September, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday.

State officials said they also were investigating 12 additional terminal operations of Florida's major oil suppliers, which could lead to more settlements.

"We anticipate (the investigations) will bear fruit," department spokesman Terrence McElroy said. "I think the suppliers know we mean business."

Morgan Stanley said in a statement it was pleased that the matter was resolved.

In their investigation of Morgan Stanley, state investigators found the company jacked its price to distributors by $1.60 a gallon overnight, an increase that stations eventually passed along to their customers, the newspaper reported. Florida state law bars gouging on essentials when a state of emergency is declared, but merchants can raise prices if their costs of doing business increases.

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