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Morning Market Roundup: Housing Construction Up, American Airlines' Parent Loses Big in Q3, the Long-Awaited Spanish Bailout?


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

U.S. Housing Construction: U.S. builders started construction on single-family homes and apartments in September at the fastest rate since July 2008, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The department added that builders broke ground on homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 in September. That's an increase of 15 percent from the August level. Applications for building permits jumped nearly 12 percent to an annual rate of 894,000, also the highest since July 2008.

The strength in September came from both single-family construction, which rose 11 percent, and apartments, which increased 25.1 percent.

Construction activity is now 82.5 percent higher than the recession low hit in April 2009. Activity is still well below the roughly 1.5 million rate that is consistent with healthier markets.

American Airlines: American Airlines parent company AMR says it lost $238 million in the third-quarter on employee severance costs and other charges related to its bankruptcy.

American Airlines parent company AMR says it lost $238 million in the third-quarter on employee severance costs and other charges related to its bankruptcy.

The quarterly loss works out to 71 cents per share. A year ago, AMR lost $162 million, or 48 cents per share.

But AMR Corp. said its core performance improved, despite widespread cancellations and delays in September. It made more money per passenger and flights were fuller than any quarter before.

American also said Wednesday it will hire 1,500 flight attendants starting next month because an overwhelming number of current staff took buyout offers.

Spain: Rising speculation that Spain will soon ask for help to keep its borrowing costs down continued to shore up markets Wednesday in the run-up to a meeting of European leaders.

The surprise decision late Tuesday by Moody's to maintain its credit rating on Spain has also helped shore up sentiment, and investors think it's only a matter of time before the country will make a request for help to Europe's bailout fund, a necessary condition for the European Central Bank to start buying its bonds in the markets.

Hopes that the uncertainty over Spain will come to an end soon helped the country's main IBEX index outperform its counterparts in Europe. It was trading 1.5 percent higher at 8,055, well ahead of the 0.2 percent increase in Germany's DAX to 7,389 and the 0.3 percent rise in France's CAC-40 to 3,513. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares meanwhile was 0.5 percent higher at 5,891.

Wall Street was poised for a steady opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent. How U.S. stocks will open could well hinge on the next batch of corporate earnings statements from the likes of Bank of America and PepsiCo.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index closed 1.2 percent higher at 8,86.55 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1 percent to 21,411.64. In mainland China, the main index in Shanghai rose 0.3 percent to 2,105.62.

Nike Dumps Armstrong: Nike has severed ties with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong, citing insurmountable evidence that he participated in doping and misled the company about those activities for more than a decade.

The clothing and footwear company said Wednesday that it terminated Armstrong's contract "with great sadness."

"Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner," it said in a statement.

Armstrong said Wednesday, just minutes before the announcement from Nike, that he was stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so that the organization can steer clear of the whirlwind surrounding its founder.

Nike Inc., based in Beaverton, Ore., said it plans to continue its support for Livestrong.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report last week detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.

Nike has stuck by the athletes that it has endorsed in the past during tumultuous times in their lives, including Tiger Woods.

The company distanced itself from NFL quarterback Michael Vick following a dog-fighting scandal, but by last year, it was backing Vick once again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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