Aug 28 - Summary of business headlines: Oil prices rise as Isaac upgraded to hurricane; Home prices rise for fifth month, but consumer confidence wanes; Apple seeks Samsung phone ban in U.S.; Stocks little changed on Wall Street but mostly down across Europe. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Eyes are on the Gulf Coast. Isaac is now a category 1 hurricane, putting much of the nation's offshore oil and refinery operations in harm's way. Crude oil climbed to more than $96 a barrel in the U.S., but prices could be volatile, says Ira Eckstein of Area International Trading. SOUNDBITE: IRA ECKSTEIN, PRESIDENT, AREA INTERNATIONAL TRADING (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Usually what happens is that it rallies up before the storm and then it kinds of come off but as of right now we don't know how much damage, how long it is going to sit, the winds, and it is actually strengthening up as of right now and so we are going to look and wait for the impact." But the biggest risk could be to the $14-1/2 billion upgrade to protect New Orleans seven years after Hurricane Katrina. That's the bill for shoring up walls, floodgates, levees and pumps, now threatened by what could be a slow moving storm packed with hurricane winds, flooding and storm surge. Outside of the storm, Wall Street sifted through mixed economic news. Home prices rose for a fifth straight month in June, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. The report builds hope the housing market has turned the corner. But consumer confidence fell in August to a nine-month low; concerns about the labor market were at the forefront. And in corporate news: the battle between Apple and Samsung shows no signs of disconnecting. Apple wants a sales ban in the U.S. of eight Samsung phones after a court backed Apple's copycat claims. The hoped-for ban excludes the new Galaxy S III. Shares of Apple, however, edged off a record high. As for the rest of the market - the holding pattern continues with small moves ahead of Friday's speech from Ben Bernanke. But European Central Bank President Mario Draghi won't hear the speech live, after backing out of an appearance. That may have contributed to the biggest one-day fall for European stocks in five sessions. Conway Gittens, Reuters