Dollars & Sense

IBM results lead a market rebound

Wall Street advanced sharply Monday,

with solid preliminary results from IBM encouraging investors to go back into the stock market after last week's rout. International Business Machines Corp., one of the

30 Dow Jones industrials, released preliminary earnings estimates for the fourth quarter that were 24 percent above year-earlier levels. The results also beat the forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. After falling nearly 250 points on Friday, the Dow rose more than 170 points Monday.

Sears gives warning

More evidence of a dramatic slowdown in consumer spending surfaced Monday, as Sears Holdings Corp. warned that a drop in sales would result in a profit shortfall and the world's largest retail trade group issued a downbeat sales forecast for 2008. Shares dropped among retailers from jewelry chain Zales Inc. to Saks Inc., which operates luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue, as the spending malaise appeared to deepen and spread beyond lower- and middle-income shoppers to more affluent consumers. The decline in retailers' stocks continued a yearlong downward trend.

Mortgages to drop

Fewer people will be obtaining mortgages this year than in 2007, with total mortgage production expected to drop 16 percent to $1.96 trillion in 2008, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Monday. If the projections hold, it would be the first time since 2000 that total mortgage originations fell below $2 trillion, the group said. The MBA's forecast projects that economic growth will continue to slow through the first half of 2008, with activity picking up in the second half of the year.

Game over for 70

The employees of Brunswick Corp.'s bowling pin factory in Antigo, Wis., were told it was shutting down immediately. The closure resulted in the loss of about

70 jobs, most of them on the factory floor. It marked the turning of a page in manufacturing history, since now there's only one bowling pin factory left in the United States, in Lowville, N.Y. Years ago, bowling pins were made across the country. But a drop in the number of U.S. bowling lanes and changes in production methods squeezed out small firms.

Coming Wednesday

Small business owners should tolerate, even welcome, employee banter because it's a morale builder, says Small Talk columnist Joyce M. Rosenberg.