Nov 21 - Summary of business headlines: Middle East ceasefire calms Wall Street; Hostess liquidates; Manufacturing hits new five-month high; Jobless claims rise; Consumer sentiment flat; Investors get ready for Black Friday. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The broader market is up four days in a row as a cease fire in the Middle East puts a jittery market at ease. Gains were modest ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, but just enough for the S&P 500 to enjoy its first four-day rally since early early October. Hostess, the company behind Twinkies and other snacks, given the green light to liquidate. The company will begin letting go of most of its more than 18,000 employees after last-ditch negotiations failed. There were a few reasons for tempered optimism. A private measure of manufacturing activity hit a five-month high in November, which could give economic growth in the fourth quarter a boost. Jobless claims were up last week but down from the big jump the week before. The impact of super storm Sandy is making it hard to see if the labor market is indeed slowing down again. Meanwhile, consumer sentiment was flat in November after months of improvement as concerns about the fiscal cliff start to creep in. So with Black Friday finally here, Thomson Reuters Director of Consumer Research Jharrone Martis gives a clue on what to expect. SOUNDBITE: JHARONNE MARTIS, DIRECTOR OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, THOMSON REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "In the beginning of October estimates for the holiday season were only 1.5 percent and now that has gone up to 1.9 percent. And we still have to go through Black Friday and analysts are very optimistic about. They think we are going to see 3.3 percent growth, which was in-line with what we saw last year 3.5. But 3 percent reflects a healthy U.S. consumer spending." Taking a look at shares of key retail players: Wal-Mart, with its controversial plan to kick-off sales on the Thanksgiving holiday, slipped but Target and online rival Amazon.com both finished higher. In Europe, stocks posted small gains as investors still hold out hope European leaders can find help for debt-laden Greece.