In other news, the Labor Department reported wholesale prices fell unexpectedly in July, and President Barack Obama met with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to discuss jumpstarting Mideast peace talks.
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In other news, new government figures out today indicate the nation's economy is still showing signs of weakness. The Labor Department reported wholesale prices were unexpectedly down in July by nearly 1 percent. That drop was largely attributed to lower food and energy costs.
July also saw a slight decline in new home construction, down 1 percent from June.
On Wall Street today, stocks were up after better-than-expected results from large retailers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 82 points to close at nearly 9,218. The Nasdaq rose 25 points to close just under 1,956.
President Obama said he sees some progress toward restarting Middle East peace efforts and thanked Egypt for its role. The president met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama said he hoped to see movement from both the Israelis and Palestinians soon.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
If all sides are willing to move off of the rut that we're in currently, then I think there is an extraordinary opportunity to make real progress. But we're not there yet; I'm encouraged by some of the things that I'm seeing on the ground.
Mubarak pledged support from the Arab states if Israel and the Palestinians return to peace talks, but he expressed frustration at the pace of the process.
HOSNI MUBARAK, president, Egypt (through translator): If negotiations start, this will lead the Arab states to support the peace process and to move it forward, because I can tell you that the Arab people are fed up with the time that this issue has taken and the issue of the displaced people.
An Israeli minister confirmed today new building permits have been put on hold in the West Bank. The U.S. has demanded an end to settlement activity, which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly rejected.
The Obama administration insisted today it still supports a public insurance option in health care reform. The secretary of health and human services tried to clarify remarks she made over the weekend that a public option is not, quote, "the essential element" of the president's plan.
At a Medicare conference in Washington, Kathleen Sebelius said her comments did not represent a shift in administration policy.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, secretary, Health and Human Services: Sunday must have been a very slow news day, because here's the bottom line: Absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice, and keep private insurers honest. If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those, too.
Republicans and some Democrats oppose the idea of a public option, fearing the government would play too big a role in health care.
Hurricane Bill picked up more steam as it hovered in the Atlantic Ocean. Centered east of the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean, the storm has sustained winds of 105 miles per hour. It's projected to reach Bermuda this week.
NASA video shot from the International Space Station show the 300-mile-wide storm. This afternoon, the U.S. Air Force sent a Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the storm to collect more data.
The former president of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung, died today in Seoul. He'd been hospitalized with pneumonia since last month. Kim spent years as a dissident under South Korea's military dictatorship before being elected president in 1997. In 2000, he traveled to North Korea to try and foster reconciliation with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. For that effort, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Kim Dae-jung was 85 years old.
Conservative political columnist Robert Novak died today in Washington after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Novak was a long-time columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and co-hosted several CNN political talk shows, including "Crossfire." He became the first to publish the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose leaked identity prompted a four-year federal investigation. Robert Novak was 78 years old.