NEW YORK – Investors stayed upbeat Friday, pushing U.S. stock indexes deeper into record territory.
Stocks were headed for a third straight close at all-time highs as investors assessed the prospect for further economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve.
Agilent Technologies, which makes scientific instruments, was the biggest gainer in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index after reporting earnings that exceeded analysts’ expectations. Exxon Mobil rose after billionaire Warren Buffett’s company disclosed late Thursday that it had taken a stake in the oil company.
The S&P 500 is on track for its sixth straight week of gains, part of an impressive rise this year. The index is up 25.6 percent so far. If it ends 2013 with a gain that big it would be the best performance in a decade.
High court to hear Halliburton appeal
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court decided Friday to hear an appeal from Halliburton Co. that could make it more difficult for shareholders to sue companies for engaging in fraud to prop up stock prices.
The high court agreed to hear the corporation’s attempt to stop legal action from shareholders who bought stock between June 1999 and December 2001.
Their lawsuit argues that Halliburton deliberately understated the company’s liability in asbestos litigation, inflated how much money its construction and engineering units would bring in and overstated the benefits of a merger with Dresser Industries. When Halliburton made corrective disclosures, it made the stock price drop and caused investors to lose money, the lawsuit said.
The court will hear the case next year.
McDonald’s testing customized orders
NEW YORK – McDonald’s is looking to give people a little more wiggle room to customize their orders, as they can at chains such as Chipotle, Five Guys and Subway.
The world’s biggest hamburger chain says it’s testing a “build-your-own burger” concept in Laguna Niguel, Calif., that lets customers pick from a variety of toppings. Its new Dollar Menu and More also features five sandwiches with different sauces and toppings.
“Customization represents another important opportunity for our business,” said Kevin Newell, chief brand and strategy officer for the U.S.
Just how far McDonald’s can go in offering customization remains to be seen. Richard Adams, who runs a consulting firm for McDonald’s franchisees, said speed is the bigger issue for the chain.
“They’re not going to do that with a lot of customization,” he said. “Their growth potential has to be built on speed, not customization.”
Oil production mark near for North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota oil drillers are on pace to set record annual crude production for the sixth consecutive year and are nearing a milestone of a million barrels of oil a day.
The state Department of Mineral Resources said Friday that crude production in September totaled a record 931,940 barrels a day, or nearly 28 million barrels for the month.
North Dakota is on pace to surpass 1 million barrels daily early in 2014, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.
Helms, the state’s top oil regulator, called the million-barrel mark a “magic number.”
“We’re looking forward to that,” he said. “We think that is cause to celebrate.”
North Dakota trails only Texas in oil output.