Technology stocks help markets eke out gains

A late rise in technology stocks helped the stock markets stagger to a tiny gain following a choppy day of trading Tuesday.

A combination of tepid earnings results, falling oil prices and downbeat news kept the market lower for most of the day. Major indexes started higher in the first few minutes of trading but quickly faded, as slipping confidence among homebuilders and another drop in crude pulled housing and energy stocks down. The S&P 500 spent the afternoon slowly recovering, until a late surge in Apple, Netflix and other technology titans helped nudge the index up.

The S&P 500 index inched up 3.13 points, or 0.2 percent, to finish at 2,022.55. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 3.66 points, a sliver of a percent, to 17,515.23, and the Nasdaq rose 20.46 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,654.85.

Customers can pick up tax refunds at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is launching a service allowing customers to pick up their tax refunds in cash at all stores nationwide.

It’s the discounter’s latest move to offer more financial services, which is seen as a path to bringing more shoppers to its stores.

The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, says the process will take the same time as if customers were to file their returns electronically and then get direct deposit.

Hedge fund pushes for Staples to join Office Depot

Activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP wants Staples to combine with Office Depot.

Last month Starboard disclosed in a regulatory filing that it purchased a 5.1 percent stake in Staples Inc. and boosted its stake in Office Depot Inc., which had combined with OfficeMax in a $1.2 billion deal in 2013.

Starboard has a history of buying stakes in companies and shaking them up. The New York-based hedge fund successfully pushed Darden Restaurants, the owner of Red Lobster, to remove its board of directors. In a letter to Staples CEO Ronald Sargent and the office supply company’s board, Starboard said that it wants Staples to immediately hire an investment bank and legal advisers to help the board evaluate, structure and execute a transaction with Office Depot, which is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

SpaceX raises $1 billion by adding Google, Fidelity

SpaceX says it has raised $1 billion and added Google and Fidelity as investors.

The California company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, says the Internet search giant and financial services company together will own just under 10 percent of the business. SpaceX designs and makes rockets and spacecraft. It was founded in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

– From news service reports