Asian shares gain on growing hopes for China trade talks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares made moderate gains early Friday after U.S. stocks jumped on news China is preparing to resume trade discussions with the U.S., the first negotiations in more than a month.

On Wall Street yesterday, energy and metals prices and shares of industrial companies turned higher. The S&P 500 index climbed 0.8 percent to 2,840.69. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 1.6 percent to 25,558.73 as Walmart and Boeing made big gains. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent to 7,806.52 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 0.9 percent to 1,685.75.

China will send a trade envoy to Washington later this month in a fresh attempt to end the trade dispute before it causes major damage to the global economy. The two sides haven't talked since early June.

Oil prices were steady after a sharp drop a day earlier. Benchmark U.S. crude inched up to settle at just below $65.50 a barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and was flat against the euro.


Trump team predicts an economic boom, defying most analysts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The debate is on between analysts and the Trump administration over which way the economy will go in the years ahead.

Most analysts say the latest pickup in U.S. economic growth is destined to slow in the years ahead. No so says the Trump administration, which insists the economy is on the cusp of an explosive boom that will reward Americans and defy analysts' expectations.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser made his case for the boom. Calling mainstream predictions "pure nonsense," Larry Kudlow declared that the expansion — already the second-longest on record — is merely in its "early innings."

The U.S. economy grew for seven straight years under President Barack Obama before Trump took office early last year. Since then, it's stayed steady, and the job market has remained strong. The stock market is also nearing an all-time high, a sign of confidence about corporate profits.

Economic growth has picked up this year, having reached a four-year high of 4.1 percent at an annual rate last quarter. Job gains are also running at a slightly faster pace than in 2017. Most analysts see the economy growing a solid 3 percent this year — a potential political asset for Trump and the Republican Party, especially with the approach of November's congressional elections.

Yet it's hard to find any outside mainstream economists who would agree with Kudlow's assertion that the Trump administration can accelerate or even sustain that growth rate.

Most also say the Fed's continuing interest rate hikes, combined with the trade conflicts Trump has sparked with most of America's trading partners, could also limit growth.


NY University offers free tuition for all medical students

NEW YORK (AP) — New York University is offering free tuition for all of its medical students.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the move is a first among major U.S. medical schools.

Rising tuition and six-figure loans have been pushing new doctors into higher-paying fields and contributing to a shortage of researchers and primary care physicians.

The associate dean for admissions and financial aid, Dr. Rafael Rivera, says there's a "moral imperative" to reduce debt.

"Our full-tuition scholarships make it possible for aspiring physicians to choose a specialty based on their talent and inclinations to better serve the communities who need it most, and to more easily pursue scientific breakthroughs that improve how we care for patients," NYU School of Medicine said on its website.

Tuition had been set at about $55,000 for the coming year.

Most medical students will still need to pay about $29,000 for annual room and board and other living expenses.

The Wall Street Journal said the university will provide full-tuition scholarships for 93 first-year students — another nine are already covered through an M.D./PhD program — as well as 350 students already partly through the M.D.-only degree program.

NYU estimates it will need about $600 million to fund the tuition package in perpetuity. It has raised more than $450 million.


Kroger rolls out driverless cars for grocery deliveries

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — At a time when big-box retailers are trying to offer the same conveniences as their online competitors, the biggest U.S. grocery chain is testing the use of driverless cars to deliver groceries in a Phoenix suburb.

Kroger's pilot program launched Thursday morning with a robotic vehicle parked outside one of its own Fry's supermarkets in Scottsdale. A store clerk loaded the back seat with full grocery bags. A man was in the driver's seat and another was in the front passenger seat with a laptop. Both were there to monitor the car's performance.

Under the self-driving service, shoppers can order same-day or next-day delivery online or on a mobile app for a flat rate of about $6. After the order is placed, a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries curbside, requiring customers to be present to fetch them. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code.

Currently, Kroger is operating with Toyota Prius vehicles. During the next phase of testing in the fall, deliveries will be made by a completely autonomous vehicle with no human aboard.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., is partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded by two engineers who worked on autonomous vehicles at Google.


Turkish finance chief tries to reassure investors on crisis

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's finance chief tried to reassure thousands of international investors on a conference call Thursday, in which he pledged to fix the economic troubles that have seen the country spiral into a currency crisis.

The national currency recovered somewhat from record lows hit earlier this week, a day after Qatar pledged $15 billion in investments to help Turkey's economy. The lira strengthened some 4 percent against the dollar, to around 5.75 per dollar.

Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak was quoted by private media NTV as saying the economy would emerge stronger from the turmoil.

Albayrak said Turkey's banks are "healthy and strong" and that implementing structural reforms and maintain tight monetary policy to fight inflation remain a priority. The minister ruled out any move to limit money flows — which is a possibility that worries investors — or any assistance from the International Monetary Fund, NTV said.

The lira had nosedived in recent weeks, hitting a record low of 7.24 this week, as investors worried about fundamental economic problems in the country and a diplomatic and trade dispute with the United States.

Among the big concerns is that Turkey's has amassed high levels of foreign debt to fuel growth in recent years. And as the currency drops, that debt becomes so much more expensive to repay, leading to potential bankruptcies.

Also worrying investors has been President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates to support the currency, as experts say it should. Erdogan has tightened his grip since consolidating power after general elections this year.


Walmart sees sales rise at stores and online, raises outlook

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart raised its financial outlook for the year on Thursday after beating Wall Street's expectations for the quarter and seeing the strongest growth in more than a decade in sales at established stores. Its shares rose more than 9 percent.

The upbeat report indicates that Walmart's efforts to improve the experience shoppers have at its stores and expand its online services, particularly in grocery, are helping bring people to its websites and stores. Like many other retailers, Walmart is also benefiting from a stronger job market and rising confidence. Home Depot, Macy's and Nordstrom all raised their forecasts this week.


FCC chair: White House called about Sinclair-Tribune deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency, said Thursday that a White House official called to talk about a proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and Tribune Media Co.

Ajit Pai told a Senate panel that Don McGahn, the White House counsel, called for a "status update" on the agency's action on the deal. He said McGahn "saw something in the news and wanted to know what our decision was," but did not express an opinion. Pai says the call came July 16 or 17. Pai on July 16 had expressed "serious concerns" about the merger.

A White House official on Thursday confirmed that the call took place, but would not discuss substance of the call.


More than 1,000 Google workers protest censored China search

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — More than a thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting the company's secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

The letter calls on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company. The letter's contents were confirmed by a Google employee who helped organize it but who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the debate.

The letter says employees lack the information required "to make ethically informed decisions about our work" and complains that most employees only found out about the project — nicknamed Dragonfly — through media reports.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed in protest of Project Maven, a U.S. military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.


US approves new generic competitor to EpiPen

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials have approved a new generic version of EpiPen, the emergency allergy medication.

The Food and Drug Administration's action Thursday opens the door to more competition for a drug that has faced public outrage over its price tag. The injections are stocked by schools and parents to treat allergic reactions to food and bug bites.

The new generic version will be sold by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

EpiPen maker Mylan has dominated the $1 billion market for two decades. Competing shots are not widely marketed or prescribed by doctors.

In 2016, Congress blasted Mylan for raising the price to $600, a five-fold increase over nearly a decade. The company responded by launching its own lower-cost generic version for $300.


Judge orders new federal review of Keystone XL pipeline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. State Department to conduct a more thorough review of the Keystone XL pipeline's proposed pathway after Nebraska state regulators changed the route, raising the possibility of further delays to a project first proposed in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Montana said in a ruling Wednesday that the State Department must supplement its 2014 environmental impact study of the project to consider the new route. Morris declined to strike down the federal permit for the project, approved by President Donald Trump in March 2017.


US authorities seize fake luxury goods shipped from China

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal homeland security authorities say they've seized a large haul of counterfeit luxury handbags, wallets and belts smuggled through ports in the New York-city area and Los Angeles.

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations announced charges in New York City against 33 people Thursday in a scheme involving knockoffs of brands like Gucci, Hermes (ehr-MEHZ') and Louis Vuitton (loo-wee vwee-TAHN'). It estimated the fake goods had a potential value of nearly half a billion dollars if passed off as the real thing.

The majority of items from China were smuggled in 20 shipping containers through the Port of New York and New Jersey. Another pair of the 40-foot containers came in at the Port of Los Angeles.

Authorities say some of the defendants forged the information of legitimate importers as part of the scheme.


In reversal, Ball State removes name of Papa John's founder

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University's trustees have voted to remove the name of alumnus and Papa John's founder John Schnatter (SHNAH'-tur) from a business institute because of his use of a racial slur.

The board voted 8-1 Thursday to remove the name from the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise and return money donated by the Schnatter Family Foundation. The vote came nearly two weeks after the trustees issued a statement Aug. 3 supporting Schnatter . The Schnatter Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation donated $3.25 million in 2016 to create the institute.

Purdue University and the University of Louisville have taken similar removal steps.