Government shutdown slowed weak job market

U.S. businesses added just 130,000 jobs in October, according to a private survey, as the 16-day partial government shutdown slowed an already-weak job market.

Payroll processor ADP also said Wednesday that companies created just 145,000 jobs in September, far below the 166,000 it had reported earlier this month.

The job market had been weakening even before the shutdown started Oct. 1. Employers were also worried about a standoff over raising the federal borrowing limit.

Consumer prices rose only slightly last month

U.S. consumer prices increased only slightly in September, as higher energy costs offset flat food prices. The figures are the latest evidence that slow economic growth is keeping inflation tame.

The consumer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in September, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That’s up from 0.1 percent in August. Higher gas, electricity and other energy costs rose 0.8 percent, making up about half the overall increase.

In the past year, consumer prices have increased just 1.2 percent, down from a 1.5 percent annual gain in August. That’s the smallest 12-month gain since April, and it’s below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target.

GM’s solid quarter sparks talk of dividend payment

Another solid quarterly performance at General Motors brought the strongest talk yet of the automaker paying a dividend for the first time in five years, or perhaps buying back stock.

GM on Wednesday reported pretax profit of $2.64 billion for the third quarter, up almost 15 percent over a year ago. Earnings grew in North America, South America and China and losses narrowed in Europe.

Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said on a conference call that the board knows that shareholders want the best possible return on their investment. “We understand what we’re here for, and one of them is to return money to our shareholders,” he said, without giving a specific time frame.

Major stock indexes dip; U.S. crude closes at $96.77

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 61.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,618.76. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 8.64 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,763.31. The Nasdaq composite fell 21.72 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,930.62.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery dropped $1.43, or 1.5 percent, to close at $96.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international crude also used by U.S. refineries, rose 85 cents to $109.86 on the ICE exchange in London.

– From news service reports