FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks fall

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies are on pace for their second day of sharp losses and U.S. stocks are down for the third day in a row.

Apple fell 1.9 percent Thursday and Facebook retreated 2.8 percent.

Energy companies and banks also fell while industrials traded higher.

ADP-EMPLOYMENT

Survey: US companies added a solid 163,000 jobs in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added 163,000 jobs in August, a private survey found, a decent gain that suggests that employers are confident enough to keep hiring.

Payroll processor ADP says the job gains were the fewest since October. But last month's hiring is still enough to lower unemployment over time. The economy is expanding at a healthy pace, spurred by tax cuts and robust consumer spending.

The ADP figures come a day before the government will release its official jobs data for August. Economists have forecast that Friday's report will show employers added a solid 189,000 jobs, according to data provider FactSet.

ADP compiles hiring data from millions of companies that are clients of its payroll services. Its figures frequently diverge from the government's data but tend to approximate them over time.

ECONOMY-SERVICES

US services firms saw growth quicken in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services companies grew at a faster pace in August as business activity and new orders rebounded.

The Institute for Supply Management says that its services index rose to 58.5 last month from 55.7 in July. Readings above 50 signal an expanding economy.

The services sector, where most Americans are employed, has now grown for 103 straight months, or more than eight years.

The index was boosted by monthly increases in business activity and new orders, both of which had cooled in July. The employment component of the index improved last month.

PRODUCTIVITY

US productivity grew at strong 2.9 percent rate in Q2

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department on Thursday affirmed last month's report that U.S. productivity increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the second quarter.

The government reported few revisions to the productivity figures released in August. The jump in productivity followed a tepid 0.3 percent gain in the first quarter. Labor costs slipped 1 percent in the April-June quarter, instead of the 0.9 percent that was initially reported.

Productivity, which determines how fast the economy can grow and how much living standards can increase, has been weak throughout this nine-year expansion. Many economists view the strong second quarter growth as a blip rather than a lasting acceleration.

Separately, the Labor Department said Thursday that 203,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, the lowest level since December 1969.

MORTGAGE RATES

Average US mortgage rates tick up; 30-year at 4.54 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates ticked up this week for the second straight week, remaining substantially higher than a year ago amid strength in the economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.54 percent from 4.52 percent last week. Long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years. The average benchmark 30-year rate reached a high this year of 4.66 percent on May 24. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.78 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans edged up to 3.99 percent this week from 3.97 percent last week.

FORD-PICKUP RECALL

Ford recalls 2M pickup trucks; seat belts can cause fires

DETROIT (AP) — Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford is recalling about 2 million F-150 pickups in North America because the seat belts can cause fires.

The recall covers certain trucks from the 2015 through 2018 model years.

The company says it has 23 reports of smoke or fire in the U.S. and Canada, but it's not aware of any injuries. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the fires last month after getting five reports. Fires destroyed three trucks.

Ford says some seat belt pretensioners can generate excessive sparks when they tighten the belts before a crash. That can ignite gases inside a support beam and cause insulation and carpet to catch fire.

Dealers will remove insulation and install heat-resistant tape. Owners will be notified starting Sept. 24.

SONY HACK

North Korean charged in Sony, Wannacry attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has charged a computer programmer working on behalf of the North Korean government with the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, along with the massive Wannacry ransomware attack last year and an $81 million theft from a bank in Bangladesh.

The department identifies the programmer as Park Jin Hyok.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers says it was one of the most complex cybercriminal investigations conducted by the department.

EUROPE-APPLE-SHAZAM

EU clears Apple's purchase of song-recognition app Shazam

LONDON (AP) — The European Union has approved Apple's acquisition of song-recognition app Shazam after a months-long investigation found it wouldn't hurt competition in the music streaming market.

The EU's Antitrust Commission said Thursday that competing providers would not be shut out of the market following the acquisition.

Apple announced last year that it was going to buy Shazam, which had been a competitor to its digital assistant Siri.

The iPhone maker's Apple Music streaming service competes with rivals including Spotify.

EU antitrust officials had launched an investigation in April over worries that the iPhone maker Apple would get easy access to sensitive consumer data giving it an unfair advantage over other services in attracting customers.

GOOP-EGGS SETTLEMENT

Goop settles over claims its vaginal eggs have health perks

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle company goop has agreed to pay $145,000 in civil penalties over products including egg-shaped stones that are meant to be inserted into the vagina to improve health.

Prosecutors in eight California counties jointly announced the settlement on Tuesday after a task-force investigation found some of goop's health claims were unfounded.

The settlement involves advertisements saying goop's Jade Egg and Rose Quartz Egg could balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles and improve bladder control.

In addition to the penalty, the company will provide refunds to customers who ask.

A goop statement says the settlement acknowledges no liability on the company's part and addresses only advertising, not the products themselves. The statement says there is honest disagreement between the sides, but goop wanted to settle the matter quickly and amicably.

BLUECROSS-OXYCONTIN

BlueCross of Tennessee will stop covering OxyContin in 2019

(Information in the following story is from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com )

NAHSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's largest health insurer will stop covering OxyContin prescriptions as part of an effort to combat opioid addiction.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Natalie Tate tells The Tennessean the company will encourage doctors to recommend two alternatives to OxyContin, which BlueCross will cease paying for on Jan. 1.

The suggested alternatives, Xtampza and Morphabond, are more expensive opioid pain relievers, designed to be more difficult to abuse. Tate says customers will pay the same copay as for OxyContin, and BlueCross will absorb the additional cost.

OxyContin is manufactured by Purdue Pharma, which has been accused of intentionally fueling the opioid epidemic. Other large insurers, such as Cigna and Florida Blue, have made similar moves. This change affects only Tennessee, and Medicare customers and approved cancer and hospice patients are exempt.

OBIT-DEVOS

Amway founder, philanthropist Richard DeVos dies at age 92

ADA, Mich. (AP) — Billionaire Richard DeVos (duh-VAHS'), co-founder of direct-selling giant Amway and father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has died. He was 92.

Family spokesman Nick Wasmiller says DeVos died Thursday at his Ada, Michigan, home due to complications from an infection.

DeVos was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He started Amway along with friend, Jay Van Andel, in 1959. DeVos served as company president until 1993.

The DeVos family bought the NBA's Orlando Magic in 1991.