IN BRIEF

NEW YORK

As investors’ faith is bolstered, stocks rise

A volatile Wall Street advanced Thursday for the second day in a row, as investors found renewed confidence in a report that Bank of America Corp. is close to buying struggling mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp.

After seesawing earlier in the day, the Dow Jones industrials finished up nearly 120 points on the afternoon report from The Wall Street Journal. The stock market has been buffeted by concerns about fallout from the mortgage and credit crisis.

“For the last month, rumors are that Countrywide was going into bankruptcy,” said Ryan Larson, senior trader at Voyageur Asset Management. “Any deal with Bank of America is good news, and the market is looking for even a hint of good news these days.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 117.78, or 0.92 percent, to 12,853.09.

Broader stock indicators also rebounded. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11.20, or 0.79 percent, to 1,420.33; the Nasdaq composite index rose 13.97, or 0.56 percent, to 2,488.52.

ALBANY, N.Y.

Intel investigated for possible violations

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating possible violations of state and federal antitrust laws by Intel Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of computer microprocessors.

A Cuomo spokesman said subpoenas were being delivered Thursday seeking information on whether Intel coerced customers to exclude Advanced Micro Devices from the market for a specific computer processing unit.

ATLANTA

Merger speculation boosts Delta stock

Shares of Delta Air Lines surged 18.2 percent Thursday following renewed speculation that the nation’s No. 3 carrier may be close to inking a deal to combine with another airline.

Delta shares rose $2.46 to close at $15.98.

Delta’s board will be asked today to allow formal merger talks between Delta and Northwest and United, with the idea that Delta would ultimately choose to combine with one of the two, sources told The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

NEW YORK

American Express sees more missed payments

American Express Co. expects slower spending and more missed payments on credit card bills to hamper its profit throughout 2008, the company said Thursday.

While rich people are still doing fine, American Express said the slumping housing market has begun to take its toll on the American consumer.

Charges on the company’s roughly 84.7 million cards began to tail off in December, American Express said, and more clients failed to repay their debts.

WASHINGTON

Bush administration to push for trade deals

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said Thursday the Bush administration will push for approval for three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

He said the administration was optimistic that the deals can win approval although it is an election year and both the House and Senate are controlled by Democrats who have grown more warier of trade given soaring U.S. trade deficits and the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.

NEW YORK

Treasury prices decline on Countrywide news

Treasury prices fell sharply Thursday after stocks advanced on news that Bank of America Corp. might buy struggling mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 0.53 points to 102.97 with a yield of 3.87 percent, up from 3.83 percent late Wednesday, according to BGCantor Market Data.

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