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Morning Market Roundup: Oil Cracks $100, U.S. Industrial Production Down, Consumer Prices Up

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Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Oil: The price of oil broke above $100 a barrel on Friday for the first time since early May after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a plan to jolt the U.S. economy and unrest in the Middle East heightened supply concerns.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for October delivery was up $1.84 at $100.15 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed at $98.31, up $1.30, on Thursday.

In London, November Brent crude was up $1.75 at $117.63 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Consumer Prices: More expensive gas drove up consumer prices in August by the most in three years. But outside energy, inflation was tame.

The Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent last month, the first increase since March. Higher gas prices accounted for 80 percent of the increase. Food prices rose 0.2 percent.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices edged up 0.1 percent for the second straight month. Rents, medical care and new cars got more expensive, while clothing, furniture and airline fares fell in price.

Industrial Production: U.S. industrial production fell in August by the largest amount in more than three years as factories produced fewer cars and other manufactured goods.

Industrial production dropped 1.2 percent in August compared to July, the Federal Reserve said Friday. It was the biggest setback since a 1.7 percent decline in March 2009 when the country was in recession.

Manufacturing output, the most important component of industrial production, fell 0.7 percent, led by a 4 percent drop in output at auto plants.

U.S. factory activity shrank for a third straight month in August, according to the Institute for Supply Management's closely watched survey of manufacturing conditions.

Growth slowed in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of just 1.7 percent, down from 2 percent in the January- March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of last year.

India: India agreed Friday to open its huge market to foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart as part of a flurry of economic reforms aimed at sparking new growth in the country's sputtering economy. The Cabinet's decision came as a major surprise and immediately sparked new optimism that a government plagued by scandal was finally breaking out of the political paralysis that had stifled reforms for months.

The Cabinet decided to allow foreign firms to own a majority stake in multi-brand retailers here for the first time. However, individual states would have the right to decide whether to allow the retailers to operate from their territory, according to government officials.

The Cabinet also agreed to allow foreign investment in airlines and to sell stakes in state-owned companies. On Thursday, the government decided to reduce fuel subsidies and allow the price of diesel to rise, a move hailed by the business community but criticized by political allies and opponents.

Stocks: Stocks opened higher Friday, on track to record one of their best weeks since June, after the Federal Reserve stepped in again to help the disappointing economic recovery.

Just after the opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 65 points at 13,605. The Dow rocketed higher by 206 points on Thursday after the Fed announcement and closed at a four-year high.

In the United States, the S&P was up seven points at 1,467, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 21 at 3,177.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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