European turmoil erases early Dow Jones rally

An early rally faded on the stock market Friday, leaving indexes down about 3 percent for the week as worries resurfaced about a breakup of the euro.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 2 points. It was up as many as 99 points in the morning after Italy’s government won a confidence vote on austerity measures.

That gain evaporated around noon after Fitch warned that it might downgrade the debt of Italy, Spain and four other countries that use the euro. After markets closed, Moody’s downgraded Belgium’s debt two notches.

Materials and industrial companies rose, signaling that traders expect the U.S. economic recovery to remain on track. Utilities, health care and consumer staples companies lagged as traders sold stocks that are seen as safer when the economy is weak.

The Dow closed down 2.42 points at 11,866.93.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 3.91, or 0.3 percent, to 1,219.66. The Nasdaq composite index rose 14.32, or 0.6 percent, to 2,555.33.

Last Ford Ranger rolls off line; about 800 out of work

The last Ranger small pickup truck rolled off the line Friday morning, closing out an 86-year history of turning out Fords at the assembly plant in St. Paul, Minn., and putting about 800 people out of work.

Employees applauded as the last Ranger, a white sport model bound for the Orkin Pest Control fleet, was driven off the production line.

“You cheer for the first one, not the last one. I was like, what the hell?” said Mike Montie, 58, who worked at the plant for 28 years.

Darlene Aspley, 62, who said she did the final quality-control test on the last Ranger’s engine and transmission, recently started looking for a new job. “I’m kind of scared,” she said.

Dallas Theis, who worked at the plant for 53 years, drove the last Ranger off the line. He then posed for photos with other employees while wearing a T-shirt that said, “I built the last Ford Ranger in America.”

“I’m really going to miss the people,” said Theis, who plans to retire.

Sales of the Ranger small pickup peaked in the mid-1990s and have fallen ever since, hurt by neglect as Ford Motor Co. focused its attention on its line of more profitable large pickups. The Ranger slowly lost its edge in fuel economy and price over Ford’s full-sized pickups, even as the Ranger’s styling grew stale. 

Steady sales pace drives up firm’s forecast for holidays

Optimism is rising that holiday sales will be better than originally forecast. Still, the season isn’t expected to end up being stellar.

ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based research firm, announced Friday it’s upgrading its holiday sales forecast, a day after the nation’s largest retail group boosted its outlook.

ShopperTrak now believes that sales for the November and December period combined will rise 3.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago. That’s up from the original 3 percent growth forecast issued in September, when the economy’s recovery looked more uncertain.

Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, says a decent November and a steady pace in sales so far in December warranted the upgrade.

– From news service reports