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Update on the latest in business:

June 27, 2017

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Wavering Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes are wavering between small gains and losses as investors size up the latest company and economic news.

Phone and utilities companies are among the biggest decliners in midday trading today. Verizon lost 1.8 percent.

Banks are leading the gainers. JPMorgan Chase rose 1.9 percent. Energy stocks also rose as crude oil prices headed higher.

At 12:51 p.m. Eastern Time, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 9 points, to 21,401.

The S&P 500 index was down 5 points at 2,434.

And the Nasdaq composite fell 38 points, to 6,210.

HOME PRICES

Robust US home price gains cool slightly in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose at a healthy clip in April, though the increase slowed a bit from the previous two months.

The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 5.7 percent in April, after increases of 5.9 percent in March and February. Those gains were the highest in nearly three years.

Home prices are rising roughly twice as fast as average wages, a dynamic that may eventually stifle sales by thwarting would-be homeowners. Bidding wars among buyers competing for a limited supply of available homes are driving up costs. Low mortgage rates are also encouraging more Americans to buy homes.

Seattle, Portland and Dallas reported the largest year-over-year gains in April. Home prices jumped 12.9 percent in Seattle, 9.3 percent in Portland and 8.4 percent in Dallas.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

Consumer confidence rises in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers became more confident in June —with more Americans pleased by current conditions but slightly less hopeful about what the next six months hold.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 118.9 this month from 117.6 in May. The gains suggest that many Americans expect the economy to keep expanding, although the pace of growth is unlikely to accelerate much.

More consumers described current business conditions as “good” and jobs as “plentiful.” But fewer of them expect business conditions to improve over the next six months relative to the survey results in May.

Economists closely monitor the mood of consumers because their spending makes up about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

GOOGLE-EUROPE

EU fines Google a record 2.4 billion euros in antitrust case

BRUSSELS (AP) — European regulators have given Google 90 days to stop directing customers to its own online shopping business or face additional fines.

The European Union already has slapped a record 2.42 billion-euro ($2.72 billion) fine on Google for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches.

Google says it is considering an appeal.

FACEBOOK-HATE SPEECH

Facebook now deleting 66K posts a week in anti-hate campaign

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is deleting about 66,000 posts a week as the social media giant cracks down on what it considers to be hate speech.

The company says in a blog post today that deleting posts can “feel like censorship,” but that it is working on explaining its process better.

Facebook says it defines hate speech as attacks on people based on their race, sexual orientation and other “protected characteristics.” The Menlo Park, California, company says it mostly relies on its nearly two billion users to report any hateful posts they see. Workers then review the posts and decide whether to delete it.

Facebook Inc. says it has 4,500 workers reviewing posts and plans to hire 3,000 more in the next year.

The deleted posts went up over the last two months.

TRUMP-ENERGY

Trump says US on brink of become net exporter of energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the U.S. is on the brink of becoming a net exporter of oil, gas and other resources. U.S. exports of oil and natural gas are surging.

The White House is launching its “energy week” with a series of events focused on jobs and boosting U.S. global influence. The events follow similar policy-themed weeks on infrastructure and jobs.

But the previous weeks were largely overshadowed by ongoing probes into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, as well as scrutiny over Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director. Drawing fresh attention now is the Republican bid to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law despite a rebellion within Senate GOP ranks.

PANDORA-CEO

Pandora CEO Tim Westergren departs

NEW YORK (AP) — Pandora, under intensifying pressure from Spotify and Apple Music, says that CEO Tim Westergren has stepped down.

The internet radio company says that Chief Financial Officer Naveen Chopra will serve as interim CEO as it looks for a permanent replacement. The Oakland, California, company says Westergren is also leaving Pandora’s board.

Pandora has revamped its online radio service and launched a new on-demand service to better compete with Spotify, which has far more paying subscribers. Pandora had 4.7 million subscribers at the end of March, while Spotify says it had more than 50 million.

Shares of Pandora Media Inc., which are already down 35 percent since the beginning of the year, fell 3 percent to $8.20 in morning trading today.

CYBERATTACKS

New cyberattack causes mass disruption in Europe

PARIS (AP) — A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe, hitting Ukraine especially hard. Company and government officials report serious intrusions at the Ukrainian power grid, banks and government offices, where one senior official posted a photo of a darkened computer screen and the words, “the whole network is down.”

Russia’s Rosneft oil company also reported falling victim to hacking, as did Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk.

MERCK-NEW CHOLESTEROL DRUG

Merck says new type of cholesterol drug worked in big study

KENILWORTH, N.J. (AP) — Merck & Co. says a new type of cholesterol drug reduced heart attacks, deaths and other complications of heart disease in a huge, late-stage study.

The positive result announced Tuesday was a surprise. Three major drugmakers — Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Roche — have each seen promising drugs of the same type fail after many years and millions of dollars spent on testing.

Merck tested the medicine, anacetrapib (an’uh-SET’-trah-pib), in a study including 30,000 people.

The Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company said it won’t release detailed results until a medical conference in August. That’s standard practice, but Merck raised questions about how well the medicine works by noting the company will consult with outside experts before deciding whether to seek regulatory approval to sell the drug.

UBER-HAILING RIDES FOR OTHERS

Uber makes it easier to arrange trips for other riders

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber’s ride-hailing app is making it easier for its users to set up trips for seniors and others who may not know their way around a smartphone but still need help getting around town.

The new feature, coming out today in an app update, is primarily designed for Uber users who want a simple way to arrange rides for parents, grandparents and others unable to drive themselves. Previously, Uber users ordering on behalf of another passenger had to call the driver to explain the situation.

CZECH-UBER

Court cancels Uber ban in Czech 2nd largest city of Brno

PRAGUE (AP) — An appeals court in the Czech Republic has overturned a lower court ruling that banned the ride-sharing service Uber from operating in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic.

The Brno regional court issued the ban in April after a legal complaint by a taxi company which had support from Brno City Hall.

Brno City Hall said it was not against mobile applications and new taxi services but they have to be provided in line with the law. Uber argued it is not a common taxi company but the court ruled that it is.

Uber, which was operating in Brno since February, appealed the ruling and High Court in the city of Olomouc canceled it on Tuesday.

Uber can resume operations in Brno once the verdict is delivered.

BIG BRANDS-BACKLASH

Some shoppers fret when companies take over favorite brands

NEW YORK (AP) — Some shoppers are fretting about big companies they don’t like taking over their favorite brands.

Amazon’s move for Whole Foods has spurred worries about a decline in quality and ethical standards. Walmart’s purchase of ModCloth and Bonobos has some shoppers anxious about the quality of the clothes or vowing to dump the brand.

For big companies, the challenge is expanding the reach of a beloved brand without alienating its core customers.

Neither Amazon nor Whole Foods has said much about strategy, but have said they don’t intend to change Whole Foods’ standards. Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn said when news of a possible deal with Walmart leaked, customer growth accelerated. But Dunn concedes there’s work to be done in appeasing what he calls a dissatisfied minority.

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