Dec. 5 - Summary of business headlines: U.S. data point to lukewarm economy: Hotel chief sees lending spigot opening; Stock movers include Apple, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, and Citigroup. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Economic growth in this end-of-the year quarter is uneven at best. The labor market remains soft. Private hiring slowed to a softer-than-expected 118,000 in November, according to payroll company ADP. This report comes ahead of the official unemployment rate due on Friday, which is likely to be distorted by Super storm Sandy. Growth in the services sector barely moved in the Institute for Supply Management's November survey. But new orders picked up, offering hope that if the fiscal cliff is averted, business will improve early next year. Hotels are part of that massive services sector. Phil Cordell runs the Hampton brand for Hilton Worldwide and provides some insight. SOUNDBITE: PHIL CORDELL, GLOBAL HEAD, HAMPTON HOTELS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There are positive indicators economically and a lot of our hotels are owned by entrepreneurs or individual owners. They now have the ability to secure capital to reinvest and build new hotels. The lenders have loosened the reigns a little bit on some of that funding, so it's allowing for new unit growth. So again, the two things that drive our industry: new unit growth, customer business - actually revenue generated - we are on a positive trajectory." Other positives: Worker productivity in the third quarter was actually stronger than first announced And factories were surprisingly busy in October with autos rolling out of assembly plants. But all-in-all, experts say the economic picture remains cloudy. Looking at the key stocks of the day: Apple had its biggest daily percentage drop in roughly four years. Investors are concerned Apple is losing share in the tablet market... Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold tumbled 16 percent as it takes on new debt for 9 billion dollars in acquisitions. And Citigroup rallied after announcing plans to slash 11,000 jobs worldwide. As for the broader market, Apple hurt the Nasdaq but the rest of Wall Street finished higher And Europe held slight gains despite a disappointing Spanish debt auction.