- - Monday, October 3, 2011

WALL STREET

Stocks sink, pushing S&P to edge of bear market

NEW YORK — The latest setback in Greece’s financial crisis sent the Standard and Poor’s 500 index to its lowest level of the year, putting it on the edge of a new bear market.

The index, the benchmark for most U.S. stock funds, has fallen 19.4 percent since its high for the year on April 29. A 20 percent drop would signify the start of a bear market, ending a bull market that began in March 2009. The S&P 500 has gained 76 percent since then, including dividends.

European markets slumped, dragging U.S. stocks down along with them, after Greece said it will miss deficit reduction targets it agreed to as part of its bailout deal. Benchmark indexes in Germany, France and Spain all fell 2 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 258.08 points, or 2.4 percent, to 10,655.30. The S&P 500 lost 32.19, or 2.9 percent, to 1,099.23. That’s below its closing low of 1,119 for the year, reached on Aug. 8.

BANKS

Citi tweaks checking account rules, ups some fees

Citibank made sure to draw attention last week to its lack of fees for using debit cards after news broke that its biggest competitor would start charging them.

But at the same time, the bank was letting its customers know they’ll soon have to meet stricter requirements to avoid monthly checking account charges.

The main changes will be seen by customers with mid-tier checking accounts, which offer the potential for earning interest and a few other perks. Starting in December, Citi will charge $20 a month on these accounts, unless the customer has combined balances of $15,000 or more in checking, savings and investment accounts or loan balances.

The fee was previously waived for combined balances of $6,000 for that level of account, which offers perks such as interest-bearing checking.

Customers also pay $2 fees for using non-Citi ATMs if they don’t meet the balance requirement.

AUTOS

Sales up on big trucks

DETROIT — Pickups and SUVs boosted U.S. autos sales in September as dealers offered promotions, gas prices fell and contractors replaced aging fleets of work trucks.

Truck sales at General Motors, Chrysler and Ford grew in the double digits, outpacing cars. The September increases built on a healthy performance in August, when new models, cheaper financing and pent-up demand lifted the industry after several disappointing months.

Analysts had expected more Japanese vehicles to fill showrooms after months of shortages related to March’s earthquake and tsunami. But Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., the two automakers hit hardest by the March earthquake, continued to struggle in September. Toyota sales were down 17.5 percent, while Honda’s fell 8 percent.

AIRLINES

AMR stock plunges on renewed bankruptcy fears

NEW YORK — The stock of American Airlines’ parent company plunged to lows not seen since 2003 on new fears that the carrier was headed for bankruptcy protection.

The stock dropped on a combination of news and speculation by Wall Street analysts that the only way American can return to profitability is to use the bankruptcy court to cut its costs. The news included a gloomy outlook for the global airline industry and an announcement last Friday that 129 American pilots retired.

Shares of AMR, the parent company, tumbled 30 percent to trade around $2 Monday afternoon. The stock price is down more than 75 percent from the start of the year. Shares have not closed below $2 since 2003. Stocks for the entire U.S. airline industry have fallen 40 percent for the year.

TECHNOLOGY

Report: Sprint to buy more than 30M iPhones

NEW YORK — Sprint Nextel Corp. has committed to buying more than 30 million iPhones over the next four years, imposing a heavy burden on an already cash-strapped company, according to a report published Monday.

The Wall Street Journal’s online edition attributed the report to unnamed sources. Apple Inc. is expected to a reveal the first new iPhone model in more than a year on Tuesday.

The paper previously reported that Sprint Nextel Corp. will sell the iPhone, which has been exclusive to AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

In Monday’s story, the Journal said CEO Dan Hesse had told Sprint’s board that the company would lose money on the deal until 2014. Sprint has posted a loss for every quarter since 2007.

Sprint shares fell 31 cents, or 10.2 percent, to close at $2.73, a three-year low.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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