Get used to it: Big drops for stocks are back again

NEW YORK (AP) Yes, this is scary.

Stock prices plunged again Friday and are down more than 8 percent in just two weeks, an unprecedented slide for a start of a year.

The vicious drops feel even more unsettling because they're such a departure from the placid and strong returns that investors had been enjoying for years.

Now investors just need to get used to it, analysts say. The painful return of big price swings serves as a reminder that investing in stocks can be harrowing, especially if investors focus on the day-to-day moves.


Stock market slides again; worst two-week start to a year

Never before has Wall Street gotten off to a worse start to a year.

The stock market capped the first two weeks of 2016 with a steep slide Friday that sent the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 400 points.

All three major stock indexes the Dow, the Nasdaq composite index and the Standard & Poor's 500 are now in what's known as a correction, or a drop of 10 percent or more from their recent peaks.

The market has been on a stomach-churning ride since the start of the year, wrenched up but mostly down because of alarm over a slowdown in China and the plunging price of oil.


Wal-Mart to shutter 269 stores, 154 of them in the US

NEW YORK (AP) Wal-Mart is doing some rare pruning.

The world's largest retailer is closing 269 stores, including 154 in the U.S. The other big chunk is in its challenging Brazilian market.

The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company's 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the store closures will affect 16,000 workers, 10,000 of them in the U.S. It has a global workforce of 2.2 million.


Holiday sales report shows challenge for 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Holiday shoppers did not make retailers merry during this critical season overall sales in November and December were disappointing.

Sales rose 3 percent to about $626.14 billion, according to The National Retail Federation. That's below the forecast for a 3.7 percent gain the group had expected.

The group blamed the shortfall on unusually warm weather that led to discounts on cold-weather items. It also pointed out that stores don't have the ability to raise prices in a still tough spending environment.


Chinese buying spree accelerates with takeover of GE unit

BEIJING (AP) Haier Group, the world's biggest home appliance maker, is buying General Electric Co.'s appliance business for $5.4 billion to expand its U.S. and global presence.

The acquisition announced Friday comes as Haier tries to transform itself into a premium brand. GE is shifting emphasis from traditional businesses such as appliances, in which it has been a prominent presence for more than a century, to higher-technology areas such as medical equipment and clean energy.


US Treasury Secretary demands action on Puerto Rico's crisis

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged Congress on Friday to pass legislation by March to help ease Puerto Rico's economic crisis before it's too late.

Lew made the request as he announced an upcoming trip to the island to meet with government officials and business leaders to talk about the financial situation.

Puerto Rico is struggling with $72 billion in public debt that the governor there has said is unpayable and needs restructuring. The island recently defaulted on $37 million in interest on bonds and faces its first lawsuit over how it has diverted funds to meet certain bond payments.


Transcripts of 2010 Fed meeting show concerns about leaks

WASHINGTON (AP) Transcripts released Friday show that in the fall of 2010, officials of the Federal Reserve were worried not just about a sluggish economy but also about in-fighting at the Fed and possible leaks of sensitive information.

The transcripts reveal that then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told members of the Fed's top policy group that he was concerned about reports of leaks to the news media and to financial market players. He was also concerned about as officials taking "very inflexible positions" in advance of Fed meetings.

Bernanke's comments came at the start of a pivotal Fed meeting when the central bank approved a second round of bond purchases in an effort to bolster a struggling economy.


US retail sales dipped in Dec.; low gas prices a key factor

WASHINGTON (AP) Americans tapered off from shopping toward the end of the holiday season, while lower gasoline prices cut into overall retail sales in December.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales dipped a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent last month to $448.1 billion after having climbed a solid 0.4 percent in November.

The report shows consumer tastes shifting toward restaurants and online shopping. The extra savings from falling gas costs have yet to fuel large spending gains in other retail categories. Still, some economists viewed the sales data as a positive reflection of the 2.9 million jobs added in 2015.


Citigroup's 4Q earnings rise sharply, as legal expenses drop

NEW YORK (AP) Citigroup's said Friday that its profits jumped sharply in the fourth quarter, helped by lower legal and regulatory costs that hammered the bank in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The New York-based financial conglomerate had previously incurred roughly $3.5 billion in legal costs tied to settling several high-profile investigations, including allegations of currency trading and interest rate manipulation.

Citi has continued its theme of trying to clean up its balance sheet and slim itself down in the eight years since the financial crisis.


Wells Fargo beats 4Q profit forecasts

Retail banking giant Wells Fargo & Co. said its earnings were flat in the fourth quarter, as loan growth and expense reductions were not enough to offset struggling oil and gas loans.

Wells Fargo earned $5.71 billion in the last three months of 2015, unchanged from the same period a year earlier. The company's results were in line with analysts' forecasts.

Like other banks, Wells has been feeling stress from loans made to energy companies, which have been struggling because of a plunge in the price of oil.


Chipotle stores to open at 3 p.m. local time on Feb. 8

NEW YORK (AP) Chipotle says its stores will open several hours later than normal for one day next month so it can hold a meeting following a series of food scares.

The Denver-based chain says all its stores will open at 3 p.m. local time on Feb. 8. Stores typically open at 11 a.m.

The delayed openings are so employees can take part in a team meeting to discuss changes the company is making to tighten its food safety measures. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. also says the company will thank employees for their work in recent weeks.


The Dow Jones industrial average lost 390.97 points, or 2.4 percent, to 15,988.08. The S&P 500 index slid 41.51 points, or 2.2 percent, to 1,880.33. The Nasdaq composite fell 126.59 points, or 2.7 percent, to 4,488.42.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.78, or 5.7 percent, to $29.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell $1.94, or 6.3 percent, to $28.94 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to close at $1.02 a gallon, heating oil fell 5 cents to close at 93 cents a gallon, and natural gas fell 4 cents to close at $2.10 per one thousand cubic feet.