Dow creeps up modestly, continuing streak of gains

Stocks ended pretty much where they started Wednesday on Wall Street, a day after the market had its biggest gain of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average eked out an increase of 16.42 points, its sixth consecutive gain. The Dow ended at 13,194.10, up 0.1 percent. The Dow was up as much as 43 points in the morning, but most of those gains evaporated by midafternoon.

It was the longest winning stretch for the Dow since February 2011, but that was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise glum day in the stock market.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 edged down 1.67 points to 1,394.28. The Nasdaq composite inched up 0.85 point to end at 3,040.73. The Nasdaq closed above 3,000 on Tuesday for the first time since December 2000.

Falling stocks outnumbered rising ones more than 2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

FairPoint offers call-center employees early retirement

FairPoint Communications announced Wednesday that it is offering early-retirement packages to 270 employees in its Portland and Burlington, Vt., call centers.

Spokesman Jeff Nevins said representatives from the Communications Workers of America were notified Wednesday about the offers to union members.

Workers have until March 26 to notify the company if they are interested. The buyouts will take effect March 30.

Nevins would not discuss details, but said the packages offer workers financial incentives to retire early. The company anticipates that about 30 employees will take the offer. There are no limits on the number of employees who can take early retirement.

The call center employees answer phones and handle clerical and administrative duties. Nevins said the affected workers are hourly employees.

Nevins would not rule out the possibility of layoffs in the future, because FairPoint must assess its staffing on an ongoing basis because of competition and the loss of landline telephone customers – an estimated 7 percent to 10 percent annually.

Down East small businessman earns national recognition

The owner of a specialty seafood company Down East has been named the state’s Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Michael Cote and his partner formed Look’s Gourmet Food Co. in 2003 in the town of Whiting. The company, formerly the A.M. Look Canning Co., produces specialty seafood products including chowders, bisques, sauces and seafood meats.

The company has grown to 28 employees and received national recognition since Look bought it.

The Small Business Administration also announced awards for Maine businesses in six other categories.