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Update on the latest in business:

June 26, 2017


Utilities lead U.S. stocks mostly higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Utilities led U.S. stocks higher in midday trading today. Financial stocks are also headed higher.

At 12:54 p.m. Eastern Time, the S&P 500 index added 6 points, to 2,444.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 47 points, to 21,441. And the Nasdaq composite was up 3 points, to 6,268.

The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks picked up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,415.


US durable goods orders fell in May by the most in 18 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — Demand for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell by the most in 18 months, and a key category that tracks business investment also slipped, evidence that manufacturing output is barely growing.

The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods — items meant to last at least three years — slid 1.1 percent in May. It was the second straight decline.

U.S. manufacturing has struggled to gain its footing this year. A plunge in demand for civilian and military aircraft drove the decline in May. Excluding transportation goods, orders actually ticked up 0.1 percent, after dropping the previous month.

There were some other positive signs in the report: Orders for new cars rose for the second straight month. Orders also increased for industrial machinery, steel and other metals, and appliances.


Shkreli federal trial begins

NEW YORK (AP) — The federal securities fraud trial for former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli begins today in New York City with jury selection.

Shkreli is accused of looting a pharmaceutical company for $11 million to pay back millions of dollars he allegedly lost in bad trades through a side business hedge fund.

Shkreli is most known for hiking the price of a drug to treat toxoplasmosis and HIV, from $13.50 to $750 per pill.


BMW announces $600M expansion as it celebrates 25 years

GREER, S.C. (AP) — BMW plans to invest an additional $600 million in its South Carolina plant and create 1,000 more jobs over the next four years.

CEO Harald Krueger’s announcement today coincides with the German automaker celebrating 25 years of manufacturing in Spartanburg County. The company also unveiled its newest BMW X3 sport utility vehicle, which is built in Greer.

Krueger says the expansion will boost the workforce there to more than 10,000 people.

The company says the South Carolina plant is its largest worldwide. About 70 percent of BMWs made there are exported.

Gov. Henry McMaster says BMW essentially “put South Carolina on the map” with its decision to locate here.

According to the state Commerce Department, South Carolina is home to nearly 400 companies in the vehicle manufacturing industry, employing 66,000 people.


Cladding maker Arconic discontinues sales of one type of cladding in high rise buildings after Grenfell fire

LONDON (AP) — Cladding maker Arconic says it’s discontinuing global sales of one type of composite paneling for high-rise buildings following the devastating fire that killed 79 people at Grenfell Tower in London.

Arconic says that Reynobond PE will no longer be sold for use in high-rise buildings. The company says that it believes “this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings’ overall designs.”

The tower’s cladding — panels widely used to insulate buildings and improve their appearance — may have been a factor in rapidly spreading the June 14 blaze.


Avis teams up with Waymo on self-driving car program

PARSIPPANY, N.J. (AP) — Avis is teaming up with Waymo on a self-driving car program.

The partnership aims to support Waymo’s fleet and its early rider program, which has a public trial in Phoenix.

Avis Budget Group Inc. says it will provide fleet support and maintenance services for Waymo’s program at its Avis and Budget car rental locations. Under the multiyear deal, Waymo’s cars will receive automotive services such as cleanings and oil changes from Avis and be allowed to park at its locations.

Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet Inc., will continue to own and run its self-driving cars and will continue with its existing partnerships.

Shares of Avis Budget jumped more than 9 percent in morning trading.


Ohio fixes sites of pro-Islamic State hack; feds investigate

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio officials have restored 11 government websites that were hacked with a message purporting to be supportive of the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Department of Administrative Services says affected websites were restored by today. They’d been hacked Sunday with a message that included: “I love the Islamic state.”

The Department of Public Safety says the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security are investigating the hacking.

It affected websites for the governor and his wife, the lieutenant governor and the inspector general, as well as Ohio’s Medicaid and prisons agencies.


US lawyer: US entitled to seize Iran-tainted skyscraper

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. government lawyer has urged a jury to conclude that a charity must give up majority ownership of a Manhattan skyscraper, saying it is secretly controlled by Iran.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard told New York federal court jurors today in closing arguments that testimony proves the Alavi Foundation violated sanctions imposed in 1995.

Attorneys for Alavi say it isn’t controlled by Iran. It owns 60 percent of a 36-story office building near Rockefeller Center.

The U.S. government wants to give proceeds from a sale of the building and other properties to holders of more than $5 billion in terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.


Nestle stock surges amid reports US hedge fund takes stake

GENEVA (AP) — Nestle says it’s keeping “an open dialogue with all of our shareholders” after news reports that a U.S. hedge fund has taken a large stake sent shares of the Swiss food and beverages giant soaring.

Shares of Nestle jumped 4.4 percent to 85.70 Swiss francs following reports that hedge fund kingpin Daniel Loeb’s Third Point had taken a $3.5 billion, or about 1 percent, stake. Nestle said it had “no specific comment.”

News reports cited a weekend letter from Third Point calling on Nestle to sell its stake in French cosmetics company L’Oreal, arguing that it was peripheral to the Swiss company’s core business and that a sale would be timely given L’Oreal’s recent performance.

Nestle’s stock surge today comes months after Germany’s Mark Schneider took over as Nestle CEO.


Germany: sausage makers use loophole to skip antitrust fines

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s antitrust authority says it had to revoke 238 million euros ($266 million) in fines imposed on sausage manufacturers for price collusion because the companies used a now-closed loophole in competition law.

The Federal Cartel Office in 2014 imposed fines totaling 338 million euros on 21 sausage makers. The office says it has now had to drop fines to the tune of 110 million euros against three firms, following a decision in October to cancel fines totaling 128 million euros against another two companies.

Under a now-revised law, when companies were officially taken over by another firm they disappeared from the books and fines couldn’t be enforced. That loophole, known as the “sausage hole” for its use in this case, has now been closed and parent companies made liable.


EU weighs retaliatory measures as US eyes steel tariffs

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top trade official says the bloc is preparing retaliatory measures in case the United States goes ahead with plans to impose steel tariffs on imports.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said the bloc was “making preparations” to retaliate in the event the U.S. introduces new tariffs.

Malmstroem said Monday that the EU would study any action by Washington to see whether the move complies with the rules of the World Trade Association, the body that oversees global trade.

She added that the indications are that the EU “would be unjustifiably hit.”

One reason why Donald Trump became president was his promise to revive American steel. That helped him win states like Pennsylvania.


Buffett’s company buys 10 pct of real estate investment firm

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s company is spending $377 million to pick up 9.8 percent of a real estate investment trust called Store Capital.

The Scottsdale, Arizona, based real estate firm announced Berkshire Hathaway’s investment today.

Berkshire bought 18.6 million shares of Store Capital for $20.25 per share in a private placement sale.

Store Capital’s stock jumped nearly 11 percent to $23 after the investment was announced today.

Berkshire is a conglomerate based in Omaha, Nebraska, that owns more than 90 companies, including Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. It also owns Geico insurance, BNSF railroad and several major utilities.


Jeff Bezos’ rocket engine plant to come to northern Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A rocket company owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos is coming to Huntsville, Alabama.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced today that Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company, will build its BE-4 rocket engine in Huntsville. Ivey says the project will create 350 new jobs and be a $200 million investment.

According to the company’s website, the powerful BE-4 engine is designed to end dependence on Russian-built engines for launching payloads into space.

Ivey said on social media that the project will build on the historic role that Huntsville and Alabama have played in the development of the American space program.


New study of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage says it costs jobs

SEATTLE (AP) — A new study of Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law says it costs jobs, contrary to another new study released last week.

The Seattle Times reports a University of Washington team found the law boosted pay in low-wage jobs since 2014 but that it also caused a 9 percent reduction in hours worked. For an average low-wage Seattle worker, that’s a loss of about $125 per month.

The study says there would be about 5,000 more low-wage jobs in the city without the law.

Seattle was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt a $15 minimum wage law. It is raising the minimum to $15 by 2021.

A review last week by University of California at Berkeley economists found the law raised pay without hurting jobs in the restaurant industry.

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