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Update on the latest in business:

September 19, 2017

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Banks, tech lead stocks slightly higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Banks, insurers and other financial companies are leading U.S. stocks slightly higher in midday trading.

Technology stocks also have helped lift the market, while health care companies lagged the most.

At 12:54 p.m. Eastern Time, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 47 points, to 22,379.

The S&P 500 index climbed 3 points, to 2,507.

The Nasdaq composite edged up 7 points, to 6,461.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.24 percent.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

US housing starts fall 0.8 pct., a 2nd straight monthly drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homebuilders slowed their pace of construction by 0.8 percent in August, the second straight monthly decline.

The Commerce Department says housing starts fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.18 million. A 5.8 percent drop in groundbreakings for multi-family buildings, such as apartments, accounted for the decrease. Starts for single-family houses rose 1.6 percent.

Damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma didn’t appear to have hurt August housing starts. But the floods, rain and wind struck an area that represents 13 percent of U.S. home construction, so building activity could fall in the coming months.

Home construction has risen just 2.7 percent year-to-date, not enough to offset a decline in sales listings.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 5.7 percent to 1.30 million.

TOYS R US

Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy, but keeps stores open

NEW YORK (AP) — Toys ‘R’ Us has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season, but it says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

The toy retailer, which has been struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, says the bankruptcy proceedings are a way for Toys ‘R’ Us to work with its creditors on restructuring the debt beleaguering it.

The move comes as retailers head into the busiest shopping time of year. The company says it’s “well-stocked as we prepare for the holiday season and are excited about all of our upcoming in-store events.”

POST-BOB EVANS FARMS

Post Holdings buying Bob Evans Farms in $1.53B deal

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bob Evans Farms is being sold to cereal maker Post in in a deal worth about $1.53 billion.

Bob Evans makes things like refrigerated potato, pasta and frozen convenience food items under a number of brands other than Bob Evans, which will strengthen Post’s position in packaged foods. Bob Evans also has a foodservice business. It sold its restaurant chain in April.

Post Holdings Inc. will pay $77 per Bob Evans share, a 5.6 percent premium to the company’s Monday closing price of $72.93.

The boards of both companies have approved the sale, which is targeted to close in Post’s second quarter next year. Bob Evans’ shareholders must still sign off on the deal.

Shares of Bob Evans Farms Inc. jumped more than 5 percent in Tuesday premarket trading.

CURRENT ACCOUNT

US current account deficit hits $123.1 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The deficit in the broadest measure of U.S. trade rose to the highest level in more than eight years this spring, reflecting in part a drop in fines and penalties paid by foreign companies.

The Commerce Department says that the deficit in the current account increased to $123.1 billion, up 8.5 percent from an imbalance of $113.5 billion in the first quarter. It was the biggest deficit since a gap of $150 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The current account is the most complete measure of trade because it includes not only goods and services but investment flows and other payments between the United States and the world.

President Donald Trump has promised to reduce America’s trade deficit, contending it costs U.S. factory jobs.

KOHL’S-AMAZON

Kohl’s to start accepting Amazon returns at some stores

MENOMEE FALLS, Wis. (AP) — Kohl’s, which is opening some in-store Amazon shops, says it will start accepting returns for the online retailer at some of its stores in Los Angeles and Chicago starting next month.

Kohl’s Corp. says it will pack and ship eligible Amazon return items for free at the 82 stores offering the service. There will be designated parking spots near the Kohl’s store entrances for those doing Amazon returns.

While the service will allow Kohl’s customers to skip their local post office for Amazon returns, it also gets them into Kohl’s stores — where they might then shop.

Kohl’s previously announced that in October it will open Amazon shops in 10 of its stores in Chicago and Los Angeles that will sell Amazon Echos, Fire tablets and other gadgets.

WALGREENS-RITE AID DEAL

Walgreens, Rite Aid revise store purchase deal to $4.38B

UNDATED (AP) — Walgreens and Rite Aid have finally devised a combination of the nation’s largest and third-largest drugstore chains that will get past antitrust regulators.

The companies said Tuesday that they have Federal Trade Commission clearance for a slimmer version of a store-purchase agreement announced in June. Walgreens will now spend $4.38 billion on 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and inventory.

The drugstore chains had said earlier this summer that Walgreens planned to spend about $5.18 billion on 2,186 stores.

That deal marked a step down from Walgreens’ initial plan to take over Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp. for $9.4 billion. That deal spent a couple of years in regulatory review before the companies abandoned it.

Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. says the latest deal should be completed by spring.

EQUIFAX-CYBERATTACK

NY attorney general presses TransUnion, Experian for details

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pressing two credit monitoring companies to explain what cybersecurity they have in place to protect sensitive consumer information following a recent breach at Equifax.

In letters to executives at TransUnion and Experian, the Democratic attorney general asked them to describe their existing security systems, as well as what changes they’ve made since the Equifax cyberattack.

The Equifax cyberattack exposed the data of 143 million Americans.

GLAXO-INHALER APPROVED

FDA OKs Glaxo’s inhaler, first one to combine 3 medicines

UNDATED (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first inhaler that combines three medicines to ease breathing in patients with emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

The FDA approved sales of GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s Trelegy Ellipta (TRELL’-eh-gee ee-LIP’-teh) late Monday.

The inhaler contains three widely used types of medicine meant to prevent flare-ups of the life-threatening breathing disorders.

Once daily, patients inhale the medicines through their mouth to open breathing passages and reduce inflammation that can make breathing difficult in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and bronchitis.

The British drugmaker is launching the product with a list price of $530 per month. That is $146 a month cheaper than the combined prices of two older GlaxoSmithKline inhalers that together contain the same three medicines: Incruse Ellipta and Breo Ellipta.

SUBWAY SPOKESMAN

Judge weighs suit filed by former Subway pitchman’s ex-wife

LEBANON, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana judge is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle’s ex-wife alleging that the company knew of Fogle’s sexual interest in children but continued promoting him as its spokesman.

Kathleen McLaughlin and Fogle divorced in 2015 after the Indiana man pleaded guilty to trading in child pornography and paying for sex with underage girls. He’s serving a 15-year sentence.

Attorneys on both sides will be in court today for a hearing on Subway’s request that McLaughlin’s lawsuit be dismissed.

McLaughlin alleges Subway received at least three reports indicating Fogle was sexually interested in children but failed to take proper action and continued promoting him as its spokesman.

The 40-year-old Fogle became Subway’s spokesman after losing 200 pounds (90 kilograms), partly by eating Subway sandwiches.

NORWAY-WEALTH FUND

Norway’s massive wealth fund hits $1 trillion in value

HELSINKI (AP) — Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest of its kind, has hit a milestone value of $1 trillion, beating all expectations since its creation over 20 years ago.

Fund manager Norges Bank Investment Management said the value was recorded early Tuesday. It said the fund has been boosted by a rise in stock markets and a weaker U.S. dollar, which increases the dollar value of its holdings in other currencies.

Norway first deposited oil and gas profits into the fund in 1996 and CEO Yngve Slyngstad said nobody expected it to hit the trillion dollar mark at the time, calling the growth “stunning”.

The fund invests oil and gas proceeds mainly into stocks but also bonds and property worldwide to secure wealth for the Nordic nation’s 5.3 million people.

GUAM-DELTA AIR LINES

Delta ends flights between Guam and Japan, cites low demand

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Delta Air Lines says it will end flights between Japan and Guam because of low demand.

The announcement comes just days after another airline delayed Japan-Guam flights because of North Korea’s threat to attack the U.S. island territory.

The carrier’s decision leaves United Airlines as the only U.S. airline with flights between Guam and Japan. Japan Airlines also has flights from Narita airport to Guam.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threatened Guam. The country has fired two missiles over Japan including one launched on Friday.

SNEAKER SALES

Adidas overtakes Brand Jordan for No. 2 in US sneaker sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Industry analysts say Adidas has surpassed Brand Jordan as the second most popular sneaker line in the U.S.

The NPD Group tracks consumer sales and says Adidas sneaker sales jumped by the more than 50 percent in August 2017 compared with the same month last year. The group says the German company’s share of the overall sneaker market was boosted by nearly half to 13 percent.

NPD Group analyst Matt Powell calls Adidas’ rise to No. 2 in U.S. sneaker sales an achievement he never thought he’d see in his lifetime.

Nike owns Brand Jordan brand and retains the top spot overall. NPD Group says Nike reports its brand numbers separately.

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