Mix of economic news leads to mixed day on Wall Street

NEW YORK – Stocks rallied to finish mixed Thursday after spending most of the day in the red. Investors were reminded that Europe has not solved its debt crisis and the U.S. economy is far from healed.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 94 points at its low but finished up 19.61 points at 13,145.82. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 2.26 points to close at 1,403.28, and the Nasdaq lost 9.60 points to 3,095.36.

The government released some incremental good news: The number of people seeking unemployment benefits was the lowest since April 2008, and economic growth for the last three months of last year was in line with expectations.

But the government also said many more people than originally estimated filed unemployment claims in recent months. And economists believe growth has slowed to an annual rate of about 1.5 percent from 3 percent last quarter.

 

BlackBerry maker to leave non-business sales to others

TORONTO – Struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it will cede most consumer markets after failing to compete with flashier touch-screen phones such as Apple’s iPhone and models that run Google’s Android software.

Instead, RIM said it will return to its roots and focus on business customers, many of whom prefer BlackBerrys for their security. RIM has had limited success trying to enter consumer markets in recent years, and RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said a turnaround required “substantial change.”

“We plan to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment,” Heins said.

Also Thursday, RIM said former co-CEO Jim Balsillie has resigned from its board. David Yach, chief technology officer for software, and Jim Rowan, chief operating officer for global operations, also are leaving in a management shakeup.

The Canadian company long dominated the corporate smartphone market and has sought to expand its appeal to consumers, but it has had trouble with consumers because the phones aren’t perceived to be as sexy as those of its chief competitors.

 

Government reports a profit on bailout of six small banks

WASHINGTON – The government has lost roughly $50 million on its sale of stock in six small banks that were bailed out in the 2008 financial crisis. But the Treasury Department says the three-year investment was profitable after counting dividends and investments.

The department said Thursday that it received $362 million from the first public auction of its preferred stock in small banks. Treasury invested $410.8 million in the six banks.

But Treasury notes that when including $65.4 million in dividends and interest, the return from investment was $427.4 million.

The profits from the investment will help offset losses in the broader financial bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The government has recovered about $334 billion of the $415 billion that was lent to financial institutions and automakers under TARP.