Nov. 15 - Summary of business headlines: Dow, Nasdaq slip to five-month low on fiscal cliff concerns; Wal-Mart sales disappoint, but Target beats; Superstorm Sandy damages business activity in the Mid-Atlantic and jobless claims spike; Global markets turbulent as Mideast violence escalates and euro returns to recession. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Stocks are down three days in a row with Wall Street fixated on the fiscal cliff debate in Washington. The Dow and Nasdaq sit at their lowest close in five months. But there was more to worry about than possible mandatory spending cuts and tax hikes. Global revenues were lighter than expected at Wal-Mart as it lowers prices to try and spur demand. The retailer also says an internal bribery probe is spreading beyond Mexico to Brazil, China, and India. Shares of the world's largest retailer - down 3.6 percent on the day. But shares of discount rival Target rallied after beating quarterly forecasts. The latest economic figures - giving investors little reason to go shopping as the impact of Superstorm Sandy shows up in the data. Business activity in the Mid-Atlantic states unexpectedly shrank in November, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. And the Labor Department says jobless claims surged last week. Escalating tensions in the Middle East weighed on investors' minds in the U.S. and Israel. There was tit-for-tat rocket fire between the Israelis and Palestinians. Rafael Gozlan is chief economist at IBI in Tel Aviv. SOUNDBITE: RAFAEL GOZLAN, CHIEF ECONOMIST, IBI (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What actually happened today was a normal reaction to the tension in Gaza. The stock exchange opened quite lower about minus two percent in the morning. The Israeli shekel weaken by more than one percent from yesterday's low and bond market actually suffered something like minus 0.7 in the long term bond. But along the day there was a substantial improvement." Sticking with global markets, European investors digested news the euro zone slipped into recession for a second time. But the downside was limited as France and Germany, the bloc's largest economies, narrowly averted contraction.