Stocks End Down after Bernanke Offers No New Stimulus

Stocks closed sharply lower Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no new insight into whether the central bank will act soon to prop up the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 119.05 points, or 1.04%, to 11,295.81. The S&P 500 lost 12.72 points, or 1.06%, to 1,185.90. The Nasdaq Composite eased 19.80 points, or 0.78%, to 2,529.14.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that he’s surprised by how cautious consumers remain more than two years since the recession officially ended. But he offered no hints of further steps the Fed might take to try to boost the weak economy. Bernanke noted that several factors have kept consumers from spending more: from high unemployment and falling home values to still-heavy debt loads and higher gasoline prices.

Americans borrowed more money in July than any other month in more than three years. But they cut back on using their credit cards. Consumer borrowing rose nearly $12 billion in July, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Greater demand for school and auto loans fueled the increase. Total consumer borrowing increased to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $2.45 trillion. That’s barely 2 percent above the four-year low reached in September.

Google said Thursday that it is buying Zagat, maker of the slender guidebooks that offer one-paragraph reviews and numerical ratings of eateries, peppered with partial quotes from the people who love and hate them.

Wal-Mart is bringing back something its customers have been asking for since the Great Recession: layaway. The world’s largest retailer is rolling out a holiday layaway plan from Oct. 17 through Dec. 16. Wal-Mart is following rivals that brought back the service during the thick of the recession.

Oil stayed around $89 a barrel Thursday ahead of President Barack Obama’s speech on jobs and the economy. Benchmark crude fell 29 cents on Thursday to finish at $89.05 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of oil, fell $1.25 to end at $114.55 in London. Specialty glass maker Corning Inc. said Thursday that its third-quarter sales volumes of liquid-crystal-display glass will be lower than originally expected, because of weak customer demand. Corning remains confident in its ability to reach $10 billion in worldwide sales by 2014. And in order to do so, the company will focus much of its spending on expanding capacity.

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