Aug. 16 - Summary of business headlines: Stocks have best day in two weeks after Germany's Angela Merkel hints EU still working to resolve debt crisis; U.S. economic still cloudy; Facebook shares sink; Wal-Mart beats but cautious. Conway G. Gittens reports.
There was an upward bias on Wall Street as Germany's Angela Merkel stands by the European Central Bank's efforts to stop the debt crisis. However, she's no fan of the political process. SOUNDBITE: GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL (GERMAN WITH SIMULTANEOUS ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "We need a certain degree of solidarity in Europe. We have to learn to use the monies that were already giving these days into structural funds - to use those monies, funds more efficiently in the future because what we've learned is not all the money we've given really gave a boost to competitiveness of those countries and really improved them." Her comments sparked the biggest Wall Street rally in two weeks to a four-month closing high. Economic data was mixed. Applications for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week. But the closely-watched four-week moving average fell close to a four-year low. New housing construction projects slowed in July, but permits for future building jumped to a near four-year high. And business activity in the Mid-Atlantic region shrank for a fourth consecutive month, but the contraction in August was less than July. On the corporate front: shares of Facebook down 6 percent. It was the first day millions of shares held by Facebook's employees and early shareholders could be sold post-IPO. More restrictions will be lifted in the fall. Wal-mart says the American consumer is shopping, so profits topped expectations and it raised its outlook. But budgets remain tight in the U.S. and international operations are slowing, which could mean Wal-Mart's full-year results may fall shy of estimates. Back to Europe now - stocks there were up as well. Conway Gittens, Reuters