Stocks rebound after falling on concerns about Europe

It took the whole day, but stocks came all the way back.

Bruised once again by uncertainty about European debt, the U.S. stock market fell sharply Thursday at the open, then steadily gained ground for six hours. By the close, the Dow Jones industrial average had shaved its loss to less than three points.

It was the first decline of the year for the Dow. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained just under four points and managed to extend its January winning streak to three days.

The Dow recovered from a 134-point loss to end at 12,415.70. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed at 1,281.06. The Nasdaq rose 21.5 points to 2,669.86.

The market has had a strong start to the year. The Dow is up almost 200 points, or 1.6 percent. The S&P 500 is up 1.9 percent. And the technology-focused Nasdaq is already up 2.5 percent.

Stocks spent the morning lower after Europe became a concern again. Trading in UniCredit, a large Italian bank, was halted after the stock lost a quarter of its value. The bank said Wednesday that it would need to offer huge discounts to investors to raise money.

HBO confirms it won’t sell more hit shows to Netflix

LOS ANGELES – HBO fired a shot across Netflix’s bow this week, confirming it will no longer sell discounted DVDs of hit shows like “Boardwalk Empire” to the subscription video service.

The move by Time Warner Inc.’s pay TV channel is more antagonistic than damaging. Netflix Inc. can maintain its mail-order movie rental offerings by buying HBO discs from other sources — even retail stores. “Netflix will continue to provide HBO programming on DVD and Blu-ray discs for our members,” spokesman Steve Swasey said in a statement.

Still, HBO’s jab heightens the growing rivalry between the companies.

In December, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told an investors conference that HBO’s online viewing service, HBO GO, was “the competitor we fear the most.” He noted that consumers with good incomes can afford both services, but when money is tight they may be forced to choose just one.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has belittled Netflix, telling The New York Times just over a year ago that it was like “the Albanian army going to take over the world.”

HBO has consistently refused to license its hit shows to Netflix’s online streaming service. The decision to also halt bulk disc sales to Netflix is intended to encourage those who want to watch HBO’s shows to subscribe to HBO.

Venezuela reports highest inflation in Latin America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s Central Bank says the country finished the year with 27.6 percent inflation, the highest in Latin America.

The oil-producing nation has had the highest inflation in the Americas for six years running. Inflation in 2010 was similar at 27.2 percent.

Venezuela had the second-highest official inflation rate in the world as of November. President Hugo Chavez’s government and the Central Bank both predict inflation of between 20 percent and 22 percent this year. But analysts say inflation could rise above 30 percent, influenced by an expanding money supply and heavy government spending.

— From news service reports