May 10 - Summary of business headlines: Wall Street recedes after record run; Jobless claims drop to 5-1/2 year low; retailers chilled by delayed start to spring; Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to return $132 billion to taxpayers; Dollar breaks 100 yen. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The steady climb to record highs took a minor detour as investors lacked the conviction to sustain gains made earlier in the day. It was the first time in three sessions the Dow failed to set a new record close and the first time in six for the S&P 500. Unemployment claims continue to head lower. Applications for first-time jobless benefits now sit at a 5-1/2 year low. The weekly data suggest the labor market is holding up despite the impact of government cutbacks on other parts of the economy. An update on what's happening at the mall. Spring seems delayed this year, leading to restrained spending in April. Sales at reporting stores opened more than a year were disappointing but points to a recovery in consumer spending, which remains modest. A full look at retail sales is due next week. The housing market recovery is paying dividends of a numeric kind for U.S. taxpayers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two top mortgage financing companies bailed out by the U.S. Treasury, are on schedule to pay back a total of almost $132 billion of the more than $187 billion rescue by the end of this quarter. Speculation in the tech sector - Microsoft is mulling the idea of buying the Nook tablet and e-book business of bookseller Barnes and Noble, according to tech website TechCrunch. Microsoft already has a 17 percent stake in the unit, but could pony-up $1 billion for all the digital assets, according to the report. Neither of the companies responded to our request for comment but investors pushed shares of Barnes and Noble up 24 percent anyway. In international developments, the Yen weakened to more than 100 per U.S. dollar - the first time that's happened in over four years. And in Europe - stocks tread water but the gains were just enough in Germany to push the Dax to its third record close in a row.