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July 21, 2010 at 6:31 PM
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After wavering, markets close lower

NEW YORK, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. markets wavered through the day and closed lower Wednesday after Abbott Laboratories reported earnings were flat in the second quarter.

The drug maker said it earned $1.29 billion in the second quarter, a numerical repeat of the first quarter, with profits of 83 cents a share.

Prominent money management firm BlackRock said its earnings nearly doubled to $432 million in the quarter, due to its acquisition of Barclays Global Investors.

At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 109.43 points, 1.07 percent, to 10,120.53. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.28 percent, 13.89, to 1,069.59. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 1.58 percent, 35.16, to 2,187.33.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 992 stocks advanced and 2,018 declined on a volume of 4.7 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year treasury note rose 21/32 to yield 2.882 percent.

The euro fell to $1.2756 from Tuesday's $1.2893. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 87.01 yen from Tuesday's 87.44 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 21.63 points or 0.23 percent to 9,278.83.

In Britain, the FTSE 100 index added 75.18 points, 1.46 percent, to 5,214.64.


Bernanke predicts slow, steady growth

WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a Senate panel Wednesday that the U.S. economy was on track for a long, slow improvement.

Bernanke said the central bank "for an extended period" would stay its course with its key lending rate at zero to 0.25 percent. In addition, with the central bank's portfolio soaring from $800 billion to $2 trillion in the past two years, Bernanke said the Federal Open Market committee was exploring ways to reduce the bank's holding "to a more normal size and composition."

Policymakers, in other words, are not contemplating a return to purchasing securities to prop up markets.

Bernanke told members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that most policymakers expected the economy to grow up to 3.5 percent in 2010 and up to 4.5 percent in 2011. Inflation was expected to remain low through 2011 and the unemployment rate was expected to drop to between 7 percent and 7.5 percent by the end of 2012, he said.

"The economic expansion that began in the middle of last year is proceeding at a moderate pace," he said.


Airline faces familiar nemeses: Fuel costs

FORT WORTH, Texas, July 21 (UPI) -- American Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey blamed rising oil prices for the U.S. carrier's second quarter losses.

The airline reported losses of $11 million in the second quarter, "essentially (a) break-even result," Arpey said in an open letter sent to United Press International.

The result is comparatively flat compared to the $390 million loss in the same period of 2009, he said.

Arpey said "much of our second quarter revenue momentum was negated by high fuel costs."

Revenue for the airline in the second quarter hit $5.7 billion with a "near record" load capacity of 83.9 percent, Arpey said. Included in the revenue was "a big increase in passenger revenue."

Fuel costs in the quarter, however, were $330 million more than the airline would have paid at 2009 prices, Arpey said.

Despite the losses, Arpey announced American Airlines would purchase 35 Boeing 737-800s for delivery in 2011 and 2012.

"These new aircraft will be in addition to the 84 737s that began entering our fleet last year," he said.

Arpey heralded the airline's antitrust immunity regarding participation in the oneworld airline alliance, granted by both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the European Commission. Services with British Airways, Iberia, Royal Jordan and Finnair "will be highly integrated," he said.


Small firms expect to hire in 2010

CHICAGO, July 21 (UPI) -- A national survey found the second half of 2010 could hold some long-awaited promise for U.S. job seekers.

CareerBuilder said its latest survey found 32 percent of businesses with fewer than 500 employees indicated they planned to hire new workers in the second half of the year. Of those, 21 percent indicated they would hire full-time workers, while 11 percent indicated they would hire part-time workers.

An additional 6 percent indicated they would hire temporary workers or contractors, said CareerBuilder, an online staffing agency.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, included interviews with 1,300 employers each with less than 500 persons on their payrolls.

"Historically, it has been the small business sector that has created the most jobs at the end of an economic downturn, allowing the overall job market to bounce back faster," said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America in a statement.

The survey was conducted online between May 18 and June 30. The results carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2.65 percentage points.

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