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Update on the latest in business:

May 30, 2017

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks slightly lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are slightly lower in midday trading on Wall Street as energy companies once again slump with the price of oil and banks slide in tandem with bond yields and interest rates.

The losses threaten a seven-day winning streak for major stock indexes.

Technology companies and consumer-focused companies continue to climb. Amazon.com is among them. It briefly surpassed $1,000 a share for the first time. Security software maker Symantec, chipmaker Nvidia and 3 percent and Micron Technology are also gaining.

International airlines slumped as the government considered expanding a ban on laptops from the passenger cabins of flights to the United States.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

Consumer confidence slips in May but still at high levels

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers were slightly less confident in May for the second straight month, but they remain bullish overall.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index fell to 117.9 from 120.3 in April. The index hit 124.9 in March, its highest mark in 16 years.

The index that measures consumers’ feelings about the current economic situation increased slightly, while the index measuring consumers’ sentiment about the future was down slightly.

Consumers’ outlook for the job market was also mixed.

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

CONSUMER SPENDING

US consumer spending, incomes grew solidly in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their spending in April at the fastest pace in four months, bolstered by a solid gain in incomes. The strong results underscored expectations that the economy is poised to rebound after a lackluster start to the year.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in April after a 0.3 percent rise in March. It was the best showing since December. Incomes rose 0.4 percent.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, grew at the slowest pace in seven years in the first quarter. That was a key reason the economy expanded by just 1.2 percent at the start of the year. Economists are hopeful growth will rebound to around 3 percent in the current April-June quarter.

HOME PRICES

US home prices rising 2 times faster than wages

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices climbed in March at the strongest rate in nearly three year as a dwindling supply of houses for sale is causing prices to significantly outpace income growth.

The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.9 percent over the past 12 months ended in March, the most since July 2014. Home values are increasing at more than double the pace of average hourly earnings, making it more difficult for many people to afford to buy a home.

A steady job market has bulked up demand among many would-be buyers, but there are fewer properties on the market. Sales listings have plummeted 9 percent over the past year to 1.93 million, according to the National Association of Realtors.

AMAZON-1K STOCK

Amazon’s stock tops $1,000 for the first time

UNDATED (AP) — Amazon stock reached a milestone today, topping at $1,000 for the first time.

That puts the e-commerce giant’s market value at $478 billion, double that of rival Wal-Mart and more than 15 times the size of Target. And its four-digit stock price places it in rare company: Only four other U.S.-listed companies have shares that trade above $1,000.

Amazon.com Inc. has come a long way since its start in 1995, when it mostly sold books. The Seattle company now sells just about anything, from groceries to small appliances, and has been blamed for taking business away from department stores, supermarkets and clothing retailers.

GENERAL MOTORS STOCK

Proxy fight over GM stock heats up ahead of annual meeting

DETROIT (AP) — Shares of General Motors are rising as a proxy fight escalates between the company and an activist shareholder who wants to split its shares into two classes.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital says it’s sending a letter to shareholders emphasizing that the stock price has barely grown since GM’s initial public offering at $33 seven years ago.

GM pointed out last week that two independent, corporate evaluation firms, ISS and Glass Lewis, recommended against the proposal.

Shares of GM rose 1 percent to $33.40 shortly after the opening bell.

Greenlight’s plan would create one dividend-paying stock and one “capital allocation” stock designed for growth. GM says the stock split is too risky.

A vote will take place in one week at the annual shareholders meeting on June 6.

WESSON OIL SOLD

Conagra Brands sells Wesson brand for $285M to Smucker

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Conagra Brands is selling Wesson oil for $285 million to the J.M. Smucker Company as it continues to reshape the company to focus on its strongest consumer brands.

Conagra CEO Sean Connolly says the Wesson sale is part of the reorganization that he has overseen since taking over in 2015.

Conagra moved its headquarters to Chicago from Omaha, Nebraska, and unloaded its store brand and frozen potato businesses.

Smucker says Wesson is expected to add $230 million in sales and roughly $30 million in pretax earnings.

CEO Mark Smucker says Wesson will complement its Crisco brand nicely.

Conagra will initially continue producing Wesson after the sale until the work moves to Smucker’s existing oil manufacturing plant in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CHINA-TRUMP TRADEMARKS

Senate Democrats ask Trump for answers on China trademarks

SHANGHAI (AP) — Senate Democrats have sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump requesting information about a raft of trademark approvals from China this year that they say may violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on gifts from foreign governments.

The eight senators say in the letter today that China’s rapid approval of the trademarks after years of court battles raised questions about whether they would prevent Trump from standing up to China on behalf of American workers and their businesses.

China has granted or provisionally granted 40 trademarks to the president and a related company, DTTM Operations LLC, since his inauguration. If there are no objections, provisional approvals are formally registered after 90 days. China has also rejected or partially rejected nine Trump trademarks since the inauguration.

BRITAIN-BRITISH AIRWAYS

Shares in British Airways’ parent company tumble

LONDON (AP) — Shares in British Airways’ parent company tumbled today after a catastrophic IT failure stranded thousands of passengers during a long holiday weekend.

Shares in the International Airlines Group dropped about 3 percent in the first day of trading after a weekend that saw hundreds of flights canceled after a power surge led to an IT meltdown. Although the airline is running a full schedule of flights today, it acknowledges that passengers are still facing baggage delays.

The company has apologized, but shareholders have not been forgiving. Kathleen Brooks, the research director at City Index, says investors are concerned the troubles suggested that cost-cutting at IAG have gone too far.

THREE MILE ISLAND

Owner says Three Mile Island plant to shut down in 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The owner of Three Mile Island, site of the United States’ worst commercial nuclear power accident, says it will shut down the plant in 2019 without a financial rescue from Pennsylvania.

Exelon Corp. says Monday’s announcement comes after five years of losses on the power plant and its recent failure in an auction to sell Three Mile Island’s power into the regional grid.

The Chicago-based energy company wants Pennsylvania to give nuclear power megawatts the kind of preferential treatment and premium payments that are given to renewable energies, such as wind and solar.

Nuclear power plants have been hammered by the natural gas boom that has slashed electricity prices in competitive markets.

Equipment failure and operator errors at Three Mile Island in 1979 led to partial core meltdown of a reactor. The plant’s other reactor is still in use.

COAL POWER PLANTS CLOSING

PSEG closing its 2 final New Jersey coal-fired power plants

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — The largest energy provider in New Jersey is set to close its final coal-fired power plants.

Public Service Enterprise Group will close the Mercer and Hudson generation stations on Thursday as inexpensive natural gas has made it no longer profitable to run the coal plants.

Ralph Izzo, chief executive of PSEG Power, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer that the company made a bad bet on high gas prices. The company took a $555 million loss on the plant closures last year and expects to write off up to $960 million this year.

MIAMI MEGAMALL

Retail-tainment: Don’t call biggest US mall in Miami a mall

MIAMI (AP) — Call it retail-tainment. Just don’t call American Dream Miami a mall.

Developers are proposing a massive 6 million-square-foot (557,000 square-meter) project on the edge of the Everglades in bustling South Florida that would dwarf any other shopping mecca in North America, including Minnesota’s Mall of America.

Miami-Dade County officials could approve it this fall, despite criticism that it will worsen the region’s already choking traffic problem and produce mostly low-paying jobs. And malls have been in decline as shoppers flock to the internet.

Developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada, says this will be different, combining retail space with an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theaters, a performing arts center, and places to eat and drink.

FEARLESS GIRL-DOG

Urinating dog statue briefly placed near ‘Fearless Girl’ art

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City artist says he was expressing himself by placing the statue of a dog relieving itself near Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl” sculpture.

Artist Alex Gardega tells The New York Post that he thinks “Fearless Girl” is a disrespectful publicity stunt and “has nothing to do with feminism.” He says the urinating dog id a form of counter protest.

A financial firm installed “Fearless Girl” in March as a statement about the lack of women on the boards of big U.S. corporations. It faces the famous “Charging Bull” statue.

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