Nation roundup for November 7


Gay marriage is OK’d in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — With Illinois set to become the 15th state nationwide to legalize same-sex marriage, Chicago couple Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos finally began planning the wedding they’d started thinking about more than two decades ago.

“From the moment we met and fell in love, the language was, ‘If I could marry you I would,’” said Volpe, who is expecting the couple’s third child. “We waited a long time for that to happen, to hear … that we can have that. I think it’s really the final stamp on our relationship.”

After months of arduous lobbying in President Barack Obama’s home state, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure Tuesday that would legalize same-sex marriage. Under the legislation, which Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign, couples could start tying the knot in June.

Fourteen other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

The road to the Illinois vote was long and included a stalled attempt earlier this year, frustrating activists in a state where Democrats lead the House, Senate and governor’s office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the main sponsor, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May, saying he didn’t have the support.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which Harris said resonated with lawmakers. Backers also launched a furious campaign, hiring a union lobbyist, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and field organizers statewide.

“To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law we must change this,” Harris said on the floor. “Families have been kept apart.”

Jobless spike may not be so bad

WASHINGTON (AP) — The jobs report for October due out Friday may be bleak. It might even be scary. The unemployment rate could jump by the most in three years. Hiring may slow from an already weak pace.

Don’t panic.

The ugly figures will reflect the government’s partial shutdown, which coincided with 16 days in October. The trends for the job market will likely reverse themselves in coming months.

“It’s going to be a very messy report, and I don’t think we think should take it at face value,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Economists warn that the unemployment rate could surge as high as 7.5 percent from 7.2 percent in September. That would be the steepest one-month rise since 2010.

The number of jobs added in October could slow to roughly 120,000 from the 148,000 added in September. That isn’t healthy. In the first nine months of this year, the average job gain was 180,000.

The shutdown will be mostly to blame. But its effect on the data won’t be easy to tease out. Economists have all but thrown up their hands trying to forecast Friday’s figures or to suggest what they might mean. However the numbers turn out, the distortions mean the monthly jobs data will be less useful in gauging the economy’s health than they normally are.

“We have much less confidence in these numbers than usual,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note for clients.

Why the confusion?

Consider how the jobs report is compiled: It’s derived from two separate surveys. Each survey will be affected differently by the shutdown.

Dow Jones hits another record

NEW YORK (AP) — There weren’t any major economic developments or blockbuster earnings. But that didn’t stop investors from pushing the Dow Jones industrial average to another record Wednesday.

Instead, investors focused on the big economic news yet to come this week — third-quarter U.S. economic growth today and the October jobs report Friday. Both reports could signal how much longer the Federal Reserve will continue its $85 billion a month in bond purchases.

That program has held down interest rates, kept bond yields low and made stocks more attractive for investors.

The Dow notched its 33rd record close for the year, rising to 15,746.88 with some help from Microsoft, which rose after analysts at Nomura said investors should focus on how the company’s fortunes could improve once it picks a replacement for CEO Steve Ballmer.

Other indexes also gained, but not as much.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index also went up, but not quite enough to set another record. The Nasdaq composite and the Russell 2000, an index of small-company stocks, edged lower.

The patchy performance of the overall market suggests that investors may be getting wary of stocks after this year’s strong gains, said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

Stovall said he did not think the market’s advance was in danger of being derailed, but said “investors are still a little bit nervous.”

The Dow climbed 128.66 points, or 0.8 percent. The S&P 500 index rose 7.52, or 0.4 percent, to 1,770.49, just one point below its all-time high set Oct. 29. It’s up 24 percent so far this year.

The Nasdaq composite fell 7.92 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,931.95. The index reached a 13-year high at the end of last month.

The Dow record came a day before one of Wall Street’s most anticipated events of 2013, Twitter’s initial public offering. The stock was expected to debut on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “TWTR.”

If this week’s growth and employment reports offer weak signals on the economy, they could foretell a longer period of Fed stimulus.

Economists expect that the U.S. economy grew at an annualized pace of 2 percent in the July-to-September period, down from 2.5 percent the previous quarter, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. They also forecast that U.S. employers added 122,000 jobs in October, down from 148,000 the month before.

In other news Wednesday, Ralph Lauren was among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500.

The luxury retailer rose $9.33, or 5.5 percent, to $180.52 after raising its sales forecast for the year in anticipation of a strong holiday season. Ralph Lauren also increased its quarterly dividend by 12.5 percent to 45 cents.

Tesla Motors was among the biggest decliners in the Nasdaq. The electric carmaker’s stock sank $25.65, or 14.5 percent, to $151.16 after it reported a loss. Analysts had been expecting a profit. The stock is still up almost 350 percent this year after the company turned a profit and won raves for its Model S sedan, which starts at $70,000.

The drop in Tesla’s stock was so steep that it triggered a “circuit breaker” on the Nasdaq exchange.

The rule, introduced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent big stock declines from snowballing, puts restrictions on short-selling a stock that has dropped 10 percent or more from the previous day’s closing price. When traders sell stocks short, they borrow the stock and immediately sell it in the hope of being able to buy the shares back later at a lower price.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note fell Tuesday to 2.65 percent from 2.67 percent. The Treasury said Wednesday it will begin selling Treasury securities next year that have variable interest rates. It’s the first new Treasury security in 17 years.

Among other stocks making big moves, Abercrombie & Fitch fell $5.18, or 13.5 percent, to $33.13. The teen clothing retailer cut its full-year profit forecast and reported a sharp drop in sales for the third quarter.

 

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