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Oil gush: crude nears $110

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 01:46

Feb. 24 - Summary of business headlines: Oil nears $110 on IAEA's Iran report; J.C. Penney swings to quarterly loss due to weak sales; Job prospects lift U.S. consumer sentiment; S&P 500 and Nasdaq gain territory. Conway G. Gittens reports.

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Crude oil prices continued to ascend - jumping more than 6 percent on the week - the biggest weekly gain since the end of last year. A report out of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has significantly stepped up efforts to enrich uranium, stirring fears of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Traders ignored talk the U.S. could release oil from its strategic reserves. Crude oil closed the week just below $110 a barrel. Earnings out of the retail sector remained a key focus for Wall Street. J.C. Penney posted a quarterly loss compared to a profit a year earlier as sales at stores opened at least a year fell. The department store operator announced a plan to revive sales earlier this year, which has yet to take hold. It expects continued weakness in February. One thing that may be going in J.C. Penney's favor - and other shopkeepers for that matter - consumer sentiment bumped up in February. According to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final reading of the month - optimism about the improving jobs market offset worries about higher gasoline prices. New home sales were down in January but upwardly revised for December - doing little to alter the view that a housing recovery is in its early stages. As for Wall Street - the Dow once again broke through and then fell through 13,000, but the S&P 500 crept up to its highest close since June 2008. There were fractional weekly gains for both the Dow and Nasdaq. Stocks in Germany and France finished higher, but U.K. stocks ended the week lower. Conway Gittens, Reuters

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Oil gush: crude nears $110

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 01:46