Aug. 29 - Summary of business headlines: Economy sees modest late-summer growth after slightly stronger April to June quarter; Pending home sales add to housing optimism; Yelp shares helped by lock-up expiration; Stocks creep higher, oil slips. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The U.S. economy inched ahead late-summer, according to the latest summary by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Housing was a bright spot across the country along with consumer-driven sectors like retail and autos. Credit conditions were better across regional Fed districts, but manufacturing was a drag. Activity in that part of the economy is slowing and hiring at a stand-still; weakness in overseas demand was a factor cited in the survey. The economy grew at a faster pace in the second-quarter than first thought. Thanks to stronger exports economic growth in the April to June period was at an annual rate of 1.7 percent compared to 1.5 percent, according to revisions by the Commerce Department. Meantime, signed contracts for future home purchases jumped to a more than two-year high in July; further evidence of a housing market recovery that is gaining momentum. In corporate headlines: Investors betting on a drop in Yelp shares needed help. The stock actually enjoyed its best-one day gain as a public company after the lock-up on selling by early investors ended. Yelp recently beat forecasts and raised its outlook; two reasons setting the stock apart from other internet players like Facebook and Groupon. In market action: Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm from a hurricane without much damage to oil operations in the Gulf region, so oil prices fell. As for the rest of Wall Street, stocks held close to the unchanged mark as they have been this week; awaiting word from Ben Bernanke. But a mixed bag in Europe as investors await clues on what the European Central Bank will do next. Conway Gittens, Reuters