Stock indexes inch higher amid late summer’s lull

Slightly better economic growth and stronger housing sales nudged the stock market higher Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average managed a four-point gain.

The U.S. economy expanded at a 1.7 percent annual rate from April through June thanks to rising consumer spending and exports. That’s an improvement from the initial estimate of 1.5 percent, but not enough to put a dent in the jobless rate.

The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales for previously owned homes increased 2.4 percent in July, reaching its highest level since April 2010, the last month buyers could qualify for a federal tax credit.

“It’s a mixed message overall,” said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. “We all know we need 2 percent (economic) growth. And you can’t continue to improve on housing if the unemployment picture doesn’t improve. At some point, the numbers have to match.”

The Dow added 4.49 points to close at 13,107.48.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 1.19 points to 1,410.49, while the Nasdaq composite index gained 4.05 points to 3,081.19.

Crude oil lost 84 cents to finish at $95.49. Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday night, but its heavy winds and rain aren’t expected to cause extensive damage to oil production and refinery operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Markets have slipped into a late-summer lull. Indexes have barely budged amid some of thinnest trading days this year. After three days of minuscule moves, the S&P 500 index is down less than 1 point for the week. 

Mexico’s Pemex discovers deep-water oil deposits

Mexican President Felipe Calderon says the country’s state-owned oil company has made its first large-scale discovery of deep-water oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico.

Calderon said Pemex drilled a roughly 3-mile exploratory well and now hopes to verify the existence of 250 million to 400 million barrels of light oil in the area known as Perdido. The field is about 24 miles from U.S. waters.

Calderon said a deposit of that size would be equal to a third of Pemex’s annual petroleum production.

The president made the announcement to reporters Wednesday. 

Woman sentenced to prison for stealing Motorola secrets

A Chinese-born American has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing trade secrets from Motorola Inc.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found Hanjuan Jin guilty in February of taking more than 1,000 confidential documents from the Motorola office where she worked before attempting to board a flight to China. The software engineer was stopped during a security search at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in February 2007.

Prosecutors said the secrets she carried included descriptions of a walkie-talkie type feature on Motorola cellphones that could have benefited the Chinese military.

The trial highlighted persistent fears about China pilfering vital information from U.S. companies.

Jin’s lawyers said she took the files merely to refresh her knowledge after a long absence from work.

— From news service reports