Stocks Upended, 'Fiscal Cliff' Still Main Focus

9:21 AM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on October 26, 2012, in New York City. / Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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NEW YORK (AP) - Stock futures were mixed Thursday as a pair of U.S. retail giants posted better-than-expected profits, but revenue that fell just short.

The Labor Department also reported a surge in unemployment benefit applications due largely to the havoc from Superstorm Sandy in Northeast states.

Before the opening bell Thursday, shares of Wal-Mart(WMT) fell more than 3%. Its expectations for the current quarter fell shy of Wall Street expectations. An investigation into bribery allegations in Mexico also may be expanding to a number of other countries.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission Thursday, Wal-Mart said that "inquiries or investigations regarding allegations of potential (U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) violations have been commenced in a number of foreign markets where we operate, including but not limited to Brazil, China and India."

Superstorm Sandy drove the number of people seeking unemployment benefits up to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 last week, the highest level in 18 months, the Labor Department said.

The storm struck the East Coast on Oct. 29 and left wide swaths of damage from North Carolina to Maine. The storm also cut power to roughly 8 million homes and businesses, and some are still without power.

Retailers in the region were also affected and most closed stores at some point.

Target (TGT) reported a higher profit for the third quarter, but said that comparable store sales rose 2.9%, which was a slower growth rate than last year.

Sears and the Gap post their quarterly earnings later Thursday.

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