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While you were sleeping: BusinessWire weekend wrap

Monday 18th August 2008

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US Stocks ended little changed on Friday, with the Dow and S&P 500 edging higher amid optimism that falling oil and gold prices would help encourage consumers in the world's biggest economy to spend a bit more.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 43.97 points, or 0.38%, to 11,659.90 on Friday. But for the week, the Dow finished down 0.6%. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 5.27 points, or 0.41%, to 1,298.20 on Friday, and inched up 0.1% for the week.

The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 1.15 points, or 0.05%, to 2,452.52 on Friday. But for the week, the Nasdaq ended up 1.6%.

The price of oil fell $US1.24, or 1.1%, to settle at $US113.77 a barrel. Gold slid below $US800 an ounce to almost a nine-month low as evidence mounted that slowing economic growth was hitting global demand.

As commodities extended their recent slide, retailers rallied.

Grocery store operator Kohl's Corp raised its full-year forecast, saying it would be able to weather a tough economy. Department store owner J.C. Penney Co Inc's shares rose sharply after it reported earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations.

Trading was choppy in thin volume as options expiration added to the session's volatility, analysts said.

Ambac Financial Corp rallied 25% and MBIA Inc advanced 8.7% after S&P concluded a credit review without lowering the companies' ratings.

Financial shares have slumped this year as the worldwide costs for the collapse of the subprime mortgage market exceeded $US500 billion, Bloomberg reported. The S&P 500 Financials Index has rallied 23% from its 2008 low on July 15, paring its retreat for the year to 27%.

US dollar gains

The US dollar extended its recent advance, posting a fifth weekly gain against the euro, its longest winning streak in more than two years,

Against the euro, the dollar rose 1% to $US1.4684 at 4:29pm in New York on Friday, from $US1.4826 on Thursday. It reached $US1.4659, the strongest level since February 20.

The US currency rose 2.1% against the euro this week in its longest stretch of weekly gains since February 2006. It advanced 0.3% versus the yen, its second straight weekly increase.

As for the euro, it posted a fourth weekly decline against the yen, dropping 2%, the biggest decrease since May.

Sterling fell 0.4% to $US1.8627 today after touching $US1.8512, the lowest level since July 2006. The stretch of daily declines is the longest since at least January 1971. The pound fell 3% this week in the biggest weekly drop since July 2005.

The Dollar Index traded on the ICE futures market, tracking the greenback against the currencies of six US trading partners, reached 77.268 on Friday, the highest since January 22.

Ten-year Treasury notes rallied 14/32 for a yield of 3.85%, down five basis points and the lowest since mid-July. Two-year notes rose 3/32 to yield 2.40%.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $US22.40, or 2.8%, to $US792.10 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Earlier, gold touched $US777.70, the lowest for a most-active contract since November 20 and the first time the price dropped below $US800 since December 21.

The Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 commodities tumbled as much as 2.7% to 379.07, the lowest since March 20, as silver, soybeans and corn lead the drop. The index has dropped as much as 20% since reaching a record July 3, descending into a bear market.

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