FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 index are lower, while the Nasdaq composite is higher.

Traders are keeping their eye on trade talks between the U.S. and Canada. There are hopes that the two sides will reach a preliminary trade deal later in the day.

Banks are falling as interest rates moved lower. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase each fell 1 percent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.84 percent.

TRUMP-RETIREMENT

Trump to ease retirement regulations with executive order

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order to make it easier for small businesses to group together to provide their workers with retirement plans.

The White House says Trump will direct the Labor and Treasury departments to issue regulations to help businesses join together to offer Association Retirement Plans. Administration officials say high costs discourage employers from offering plans like 401(k)s at a time when surveys show workers worry about being able to live comfortably in retirement.

Trump is expected to deliver remarks and sign the directive at an event Friday at the Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trump will also headline a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidates Mark Harris and Rep. Ted Budd while he is in town.

TRADE-US-CANADA

Report: Trump won't compromise with Canada in NAFTA deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Toronto Star reports that President Donald Trump has said privately that he won't make compromises with Canada in high-stakes talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The report appeared to raise doubt about whether the two countries can reach a deal soon to keep Canada in the trading bloc.

The Star obtained the comments from a Trump interview with Bloomberg News. Trump wanted the comments to remain private because otherwise "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal."

In response, Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said only, "The Canadian and American negotiators continue to work on reaching a win-win deal that benefits both countries."

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters about the talks, "We aren't there yet."

CHINA-JAPAN-TRADE

Japan's Aso, Chinese officials endorse global trade system

BEIJING (AP) — Japan's finance minister and Chinese officials have pledged support for the multilateral system of global trade regulation ahead of a possible new round of U.S. tariff hikes in a battle over Beijing's technology policy.

Taro Aso, who was in Beijing for financial talks, made no mention of the U.S.-Chinese tariff war but said Friday the two sides agreed "protectionist measures" help no country.

Aso gave no indication whether they discussed Chinese industrial policies and curbs on foreign business activity that are the core of disputes with Washington, Europe and other trading partners.

Aso said at a news conference, "on trade, we agreed that protectionist measures that lead to inward-looking policies do not benefit any country, and to maintain and propel a multilateral, free and open rules-based trade system."

BREXIT

EU promises UK unparalleled partnership for amicable Brexit

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is promising Britain an unparalleled trade partnership if Brexit is concluded on amicable terms.

Both sides are still seeking a full U.K. withdrawal agreement by an October summit despite a series of outstanding issues and barely six weeks to overcome a deadlock on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

Beyond the border issue, EU negotiator Michel Barnier also highlighted the divisions over whose court should have the final say in case of specific disputes and the recognition of the designation of origins concerning foodstuffs.

If it's worked out, Barnier said Friday that the future trade relationship would be an "unprecedented partnership" to be worked out after the March 29 departure.

CZECH-DROUGHT-HOPS

Drought vs Draught: Dry summer takes toll on Czech hop crop

ROCOV, Czech Republic (AP) — A drought in central Europe this summer could leave beer drinkers thirsting for their favorite lagers and pilsners. Production of the prized hops that give Bohemian-style brews their distinctive flavors is down 30 percent or more in the Czech Republic.

At first glance, nothing appears unusual about the harvest underway in the Zatec region, where hop-growing dates back a millennium. The rows of greenery form lush tunnels in the fields, but an experienced eye would notice that the flowering cones on the vines are smaller and sparser than desired.

Fritz Josef, who owns nearly 700 acres of hops, says his yield is down by half this year. High temperatures and scarce rain that started in April persisted through the summer, while August was especially dry.

Annual rainfall in the Czech Republic was down 28 percent through the end of July compared to the 30-year average, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.