Oracle’s earnings disappoint, send technology stocks down

Technology stocks fell Wednesday, dragged down by a weak earnings report from business software maker Oracle Corp.

Broad market indexes were flat. The Dow Jones industrial average eked out a gain of 4 points after having been down most of the day.

Oracle Corp. stock plunged almost 14 percent after the business software company said it was struggling to close deals. Especially worrying was a weak 2 percent gain in new software licenses, a key sign of demand from other businesses. Oracle had predicted gains of as much as 16 percent.

That raised worries that weak government and business spending might hurt other big technology companies. IBM Corp. was by far the biggest loser in the Dow, falling 3.1 percent to $181.47.

Investors also had more to worry about from Europe, where new data showed extensive lending — $639 billion — from the European Central Bank to European banks.

The Dow closed at 12,107.74, after jumping 337 points Tuesday on good economic news from Europe and a U.S. surge in new-home construction.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 2.42 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,243.72. The Nasdaq composite fell 25.76 points, or 1 percent, to 2,577.97.

Housing sales revision makes 2008 the weakest in 13 years

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes rose last month. But the National Association of Realtors says it overstated about 3.5 million sales during and after the Great Recession, showing the housing market remains much weaker than previously thought.

The private trade group says sales rose 4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million. That’s below the roughly 6 million sales a year that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market. But it’s ahead of 2008’s revised sales, now considered the worst in 13 years.

The nearly 4.2 million homes sold last year are far below the nearly 7.1 million sold at the peak of the housing boom in 2005.

The trade group lowered its sales from 2007 through October 2011 by more than 14 percent, from 24.8 million to nearly 21.3 million. Among the reasons for the lower figures: changes in the way the Census Bureau collects data, population shifts and some sales being counted twice.

U.S. airlines unable to avoid new EU carbon-pollution fee

AMSTERDAM – U.S. airlines failed Wednesday to block an EU law charging airlines flying to Europe for their carbon pollution. The decision by an EU court was widely hailed by environmentalists, but the Fitch ratings agency said it raised the specter of a global trade dispute.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg dismissed arguments that imposing the European Union’s cap-and-trade carbon credits program on flights to and from European airports infringes on national sovereignty or violates international aviation treaties. U.S. and other non-European airlines had sued the EU, arguing that they were exempt from the law.

The EU said the added costs would amount to a few dollars per ticket.

Fitch Ratings said the decision could deepen rather than quell the dispute. “We believe threats of trade retaliation over the EU’s cap-and-trade system will pose growing threats to aviation market access in both developed and emerging markets next year,” Fitch said.

— From news service reports