Price of gold surpasses $1,800-per-ounce mark

The price of gold surpassed $1,800 an ounce Wednesday for the first time as investors pulled their money out of stocks and snapped up precious metals contracts.

Gold is fast becoming a favorite port in a storm of uncertainty. Investors are clinging to what they see as a hedge against volatile stock and currency markets.

December gold contracts backed off their highs, and traded around $1,785 an ounce during midday trading after reaching a record $1,801 an ounce earlier in the day on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold prices have shot past a series of milestones over the past two years on an uninterrupted climb. Gold was trading at about $900 in the summer of 2008, before the financial crisis unfolded that year. 

Apple Inc. knocks Exxon off stock market summit

Investors seem to think you want an iPad more than oil, as Apple Inc. became the most valuable company in the United States, surpassing Exxon Mobil Corp. on Wednesday.

Apple briefly flirted with the top spot on Tuesday afternoon before settling back slightly below the oil giant.

Wednesday was the first time that Apple managed to stay No. 1 after the stock market closed. 

U.S. chalks up third year with $1 trillion-plus deficit

The United States’ budget deficit has topped $1 trillion for a third straight year, adding pressure on Congress and the White House to make more progress on a long-term plan to shrink the growing imbalance.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit through July totaled $1.1 trillion. Three years ago, that would have been a record high for the full year.

This year’s deficit is on pace to exceed last year’s imbalance of $1.29 trillion. But it is likely to fall short of the record $1.41 trillion set in 2009. 

Capitol One purchasing HSBC credit card portfolio

Capital One Financial announced Wednesday a $2.6 billion deal for the U.S. credit card portfolio of London-based HSBC Holdings, a move that would make the McLean, Va., firm the nation’s third-largest issuer of private label, or store branded, plastic.

The deal puts Capital One at the forefront of a niche market that it only entered at the start of this year. The company made its foray into the arena in January by picking up the credit card portfolio of Canadian retail conglomerate Hudson’s Bay Co. That deal was followed up in April when J.P. Morgan Chase sold Kohl’s Department Stores’ card portfolio, handing over more than 20 million accounts and the right to issue cards to Kohl’s customers.

After the HSBC sale is finalized, Capital One would issue cards for such retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Best Buy. 

Wholesalers add inventory at slower pace in June

Inventories at wholesalers climbed in June at the slowest pace in seven months as distributors kept stockpiles in line with sales.

The 0.6 percent increase in inventories followed a revised 1.7 percent rise in May, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday in Washington. Economists projected a 1 percent gain, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. Sales also rose 0.6 percent in June after dropping the previous month.

Wholesalers may be trying to limit the amount of unsold merchandise on hand after the economic expansion slowed in the first half of this year. To help bolster the economy, Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday pledged to keep their benchmark interest rate at a record low at least through mid-2013.