Economy Briefs: Markets down ahead of earnings-season kickoff

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U.S. stocks closed lower Tuesday as traders awaited the start of the corporate earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 55.44 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,328.85. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 4.74, or 0.3 percent, to 1,457.15. The Nasdaq composite index shed 7.01, or 0.2 percent, to 3,091.81.

JOBS

Unemployment below 7% in many U.S. cities

Unemployment rates fell below 7 percent in a majority of U.S. cities in November, suggesting steady job gains are benefiting most parts of the country.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that rates fell in November from October in 215 of the 372 largest metro areas. Rates were unchanged in 33 and rose in 124.

Rates dropped below 7 percent in 192 cities. That’s the first time since the recession ended that more than half of large cities had rates below that threshold. And 52 had rates below 5 percent.

CREDIT

U.S. consumer debt rises on more car, school loans

U.S. consumers took on more debt in November to buy cars and attend school, but stayed cautious with their credit cards.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that consumers increased their borrowing in November by $16 billion from October to a seasonally adjusted record of $2.77 trillion.

RETAIL

Target to match prices in new online strategy

NEW YORK — Target Corp. is pledging to match prices of select online rivals year-round, a move that underscores how physical and online retailing are being meshed together.

Target, the nation’s second-largest discounter behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said it will match prices that customers find on identical products at top online retailers, all the time, including Amazon.com.

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