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Stocks slip...Pace of housing starts eases...Wholesale prices up slightly

Wednesday - 2/20/2013, 12:09pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are slightly lower in early trading on Wall Street. Among the factors is a government report that homebuilding slowed down during the first month of the year.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mixed news today on housing starts. The Commerce Department says homebuilders began work at a slower pace in January than in December. But all of the drop occurred in the volatile area of apartment construction, which sank 24 percent. Single-family homebuilding rose 0.8 percent. The pace of home construction in January was the third-highest since 2008, and applications for building permits are at their highest point since mid-2008.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale prices have posted their first increase since September, but it's not enough to suggest that inflation is a threat. The Labor Department's producer price index rose two-tenths of a percent in January after three straight declines. Gasoline and other energy prices fell, while food prices jumped 0.7 percent after a sharp drop in December.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Office Depot is buying OfficeMax. The all-stock deal announced today is valued at about $1.2 billion. The companies say holders of OfficeMax shares will receive 2.69 shares of Office Depot for every OfficeMax share they own, which is equal to about $13.50 per share based on Office Depot's closing price yesterday. The combined company's name, marketing brands and corporate headquarters will be determined after the company names a CEO.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two of the nation's biggest department stores, J.C. Penney and Macy's, are expected to duke it out in New York State Supreme Court starting today over the right to sell Martha Stewart merchandise. At the heart of the case is whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell certain Martha Stewart products. Macy's sued after J.C. Penney announced plans in December 2011 to open Martha Stewart mini shops in most off its stores this spring.

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