Sears posts dismal results; stock plummets

Sears Holdings Corp. stumbled to its worst performance yet under Edward Lampert, earning just $2 million in a dismal third quarter that heightened questions about his strategy and Sears' future as a retailer, and prompting a huge sell-off in its stock. Sears blamed its 99 percent profit decline on stiff competition and economic factors that weakened margins and sales at its Sears and Kmart department stores. The company signaled little hope for improvement in the near future, either, in a challenging retail environment. Shares tumbled $12.25, or 10.5 percent, to close at $104.09 after earlier hitting a 52-week low of $98.25.

Oil prices rise after Minnesota pipeline fire

Oil futures eked out a small gain, rebounding from two days of sharp declines after a fire at a pipeline serving the Midwest raised new supply concerns. The fire late Wednesday along the Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline in northern Minnesota, which carries crude oil from Saskatchewan to the Chicago area, killed two repair workers. After a brief shutdown, most of the pipeline was quickly returned to service. Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 39 cents to settle at $91.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but that was down from an overnight spike of $95.17 on early reports of the fire.

Home foreclosures up sharply from year ago

More U.S. homeowners fell behind on mortgage payments or even lost their homes last month compared with a year ago, with Nevada, California, Florida and Ohio posting the highest foreclosure rates, a mortgage research company said. A total of 224,451 foreclosure filings were reported in October, up 94 percent from 115,568 in the same month a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc. In Minnesota, there were 1,650 foreclosure filings, default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions in October, up 9.7 percent from the previous month and up 164.8 percent from October 2006.

AT&T: iPhone to get faster network next year

AT&T Inc. says it plans to offer a version of an iPhone next year that runs on a faster wireless network so users can get speedier results when surfing the Web. The move would address one of the main drawbacks about the smart phone made by Apple Inc. and distributed exclusively by wireless carrier AT&T in the United States. AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson spilled the news at an event late Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment. Many industry observers had expected Apple to make the iPhone work on faster 3G networks at some point but couldn't pinpoint when.

Post-Thanksgiving retail sales rise 6.5%

Holiday spending at U.S. retailers climbed 6.5 percent to $20 billion over the three-day Thanksgiving weekend compared with a year ago as consumers responded to half-off sales and early store openings. Sales on the Sunday after Thanksgiving climbed 4.2 percent to $3.6 billion, ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, recorded an 8.3 percent increase to $10.3 billion, the research firm said.

$2.55 billion infusion for E-Trade; CEO out

E-Trade Financial Corp., which flirted with collapse amid the growing mortgage crisis, is getting a $2.55 billion cash infusion from Citadel Investment Group in a bid to revive the battered discount brokerage. Citadel, one of the nation's largest hedge funds, plans to buy E-Trade's troubled asset-backed securities portfolio and take it off the brokerage's books. The deal also forced E-Trade's embattled chief executive, Mitch Caplan, out of the job. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by President and Chief Operating Officer Jarrett Lilien.

Morgan Stanley co-president Cruz ousted

One of the most powerful women in the financial world became the latest victim of the management purge on Wall Street. Morgan Stanley said Zoe Cruz, a 25-year veteran at the firm, was ousted as co-president in a management shake-up aimed at turning around the investment bank amid turmoil in the credit markets. Cruz joins a growing list of Wall Street's top names who have been fired since the summer, including Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal and Citigroup's Charles Prince, as they became mired in the subprime mortgage tar pit.