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May 25, 2012 at 5:26 PM
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Markets slip Friday

NEW YORK, May 25 (UPI) -- U.S. stocks closed lower Friday on economic news out of Spain and ahead of the holiday weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which gained 34 points Thursday for the first finish in the black this week, was down 74.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 12,454.83.

Investor eyes are on Europe. With no major economic reports scheduled for release before the weekend, markets across the continent closed modestly higher, up 0.32 percent in Paris and 0.38 percent in Germany.

On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 shed 2.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,317.82. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.85 points, or 0.1 percent to 2,837.53.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,548 stocks rose and 1,452 declined on a volume of 2.8 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year treasury note fell 0.04 to 1.742 percent.

The euro continued its decline against the U.S. dollar at $1.2527 from Thursday's $1.2532. Against the yen, the dollar hit 79.64 from 79.58 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.2 percent, 17.01 points, to 8,580.39.

In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.03 percent, 1.48 points, to 5,351.53.

Spain's banks may need $130B

MADRID, May 25 (UPI) -- Estimates of what it will cost to rescue banks in Spain are rising, as Standard & Poor's said it had cut credit ratings on five banks Friday.

The nation's fourth largest bank, Bankia, the country's largest real estate lender, estimated it needed $23.7 billion to survive, a sharp jump from an estimate of $11.2 billion offered Wednesday by Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos, The New York Times reported.

The government spent $5.6 billion on the bank two weeks ago, taking over 45 percent and sending a signal to the international community Spain may not be able to shoulder the cost of a financial system rescue by itself.

Trading in Bankia shares were suspended Friday morning as regulators anticipated a dramatic reaction to the bank's request, which had been expected.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported Friday some analysts estimate it will take $62 billion to $130 billion to keep the country's banks from collapsing under the weight of massive mortgage defaults.

Goldman Sachs, the Financial Times reported, has been hired by Spain to advise the country on developing a recapitalization plan.

On Friday, S&P reduced the credit rating at Bankia, Bankinter and Banco Popular Espanol to junk status. Credit ratings at Banco Financiero y de Ahorros and Banca Cívica were also cut, but not that far.

S&P also said nine other Spanish banks had would keep their current ratings, but the outlook was negative, which implies they will be reviewed again in the near future.

U.S. housing market senses a turnaround

SAN FRANCISCO, May 25 (UPI) -- Selling homes at desperately low prices is a fading phenomenon in some U.S. locations, industry observers said.

The National Association of Realtors said April's inventory of homes on the market was down to a 6.6-month supply. A year earlier in April, there was a 9.1-month supply of homes for sale on the market, given the pace of sales remained consistent.

USA Today reported Friday real estate firm Redfin found less than a three-month supply of homes on the market in nine out of 18 markets it monitors.

The tighter the supply, the higher the demand pressure. This means more buyers are likely to bid aggressively on homes for sale, sending prices higher.

"Multiple offers are definitely the norm," Rick Turley, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for the San Francisco Bay Area was quoted as saying.

Times-Picayune to cut print production

NEW YORK, May 25 (UPI) -- Advance Publications said its flagship newspaper, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, would cut its print schedule to three days a week this fall.

The company, which is based in New York, said it would also scale back the production schedule for its newspapers in three cities in Alabama: Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Newspapers are, essentially, caught between a flight to digital fancy and customers dedicated to holding a newspaper in their hands.

And the squeeze is on. More than 86 percent of newspaper revenues are still derived from print advertising, but increased numbers of readers are turning to digital sources for news.

Meanwhile, the costs of managing printing presses and warehouses, buying paper and operating a fleet of delivery trucks continues to grow in proportion to the costs of managing a Web site, the Post said.

About 45 million customers still read daily newspapers that they can fold in half. There are about 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States.

The Times-Picayune will publish daily, but only online for seven days a week at Nola.com.

The paper version will be published Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

"It's better to be too aggressive than not aggressive enough at a time like this. Doing nothing is not an option. Preserving the status quo is not an option. ... You either get out in front, or you get left behind," said Randy Siegel, president of local digital strategy for Advance Publications.

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