Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 28, 2016

The Dow makes another run at 20,000, retailers get a late holiday sales boost, and more

1

The Dow makes another run at 20,000

U.S. stock futures edged higher early Wednesday, following modest gains for Asian stocks on Wednesday, and for U.S. stocks on Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose slightly to close at a record on Tuesday, when U.S. stocks got a boost from upbeat consumer and housing data. The dollar also edged higher. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 0.2 percent early Wednesday, putting the benchmark index in position to make another run at the 20,000 level after a series of records in a post-election rally fueled by expectations of tax and regulation cuts, and stimulus spending by the incoming Trump administration.

2

Retailers got sales boost late in holiday shopping season

A rise in consumer spending in late December helped to offset a slow start to the holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation reported Tuesday. The spending boost is expected to help many retailers beat sales forecasts for the critical holiday season. Spending over the Thanksgiving weekend fell 3.5 percent compared to a year earlier, despite record online sales. "It was a hot start with Cyber Monday, followed by a lull for the last couple of weeks and then a big-bang finish," said Pete Madden, a director at retail consultancy AlixPartners.

3

3 Chinese citizens charged with hacking merger-lawyers for trading tips

There were emails stolen to gain knowledge about stocks.

iStock

Manhattan federal prosecutors have charged three Chinese citizens with trading on information they hacked from top merger-advising law firms in New York. The three men allegedly targeted at least seven firms, and made more than $4 million buying shares of companies in deals that were underway, then selling the stock after the mergers were announced and the stocks jumped, according to an indictment unsealed this week. The men managed to steal the emails of lawyers working on mergers from at least two of the targeted firms.

4

Consumer confidence surges to 15-year high

Consumer confidence in the U.S. economy surged this month to its highest level since August 2001, according to a report Tuesday from the New York-based Conference Board. President-elect Donald Trump credited himself for the optimism, following a post-election stock rally fueled by expectations of Trump's promised tax cuts and stimulus spending on infrastructure. Trump tweeted: "The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index for December surged nearly four points to 113.7, THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald!"

5

Police suspect social media used to plan post-Christmas mall fights

Brawls broke out at several malls, including one in Philadelphia and another in Milwaukee, on Tuesday in a second night of similar disturbances at more than a dozen malls across the country. Police said the instigators of the Philadelphia fight organized it using Snapchat. Police elsewhere said they suspected that social media also played a role in fights that occurred at other malls on Monday. Police in Aurora, Colorado, said 500 people gathered at the Town Center mall after a social media post announced a fight. Officers arrested five juveniles over the brawl, which forced the mall to temporarily shut down. Around the same time, a similar disturbance resulted in seven arrests at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, Connecticut. Police said it was "highly probable" that social media posts played a role.

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