FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks slip

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mostly lower in in midday trading on Wall Street, threatening to break a four-day winning streak that brought record highs to several major indexes.

Banks are falling along with interest rates and the stronger dollar is sending industrial and basic materials companies lower.

Technology companies are doing a bit better than the rest of the market, and the Nasdaq composite index was slightly positive at midday. The Dow and the S&P 500 were lower.

Electronic Arts fell after the video game maker cut its forecasts because of a delay in the latest "Battlefield" game and other issues. Dollar Tree fell after the discount retailer reported results that missed estimates.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.86 percent.

BUFFETT INVESTMENTS

Buffett says stocks remain attractive even at current highs

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett says stocks remain attractive investments even at today's high prices when compared to bonds or real estate.

Buffett reiterated his view that stocks are the best long-term investment during an interview on CNBC Thursday.

Buffett said his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate added a few more Apple shares to the 252 million it held at the end of June.

And Buffett says Berkshire had also repurchased some of its own stock in the past month since it relaxed its own rules on buybacks.

Buffett was in New York Thursday on his 88th birthday to dine with the person who paid $3.3 million in a charity auction for a private lunch with the investor. The lunch auction raises money for the Glide Foundation that helps the homeless in San Francisco.

CONSUMER SPENDING

US consumer spending up 0.4 percent in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer spending, bolstered by strong job growth and tax cuts, rose a solid 0.4 percent in July, the sixth straight month of healthy gains, while a key measure of inflation posted its largest annual gain in more than six years.

The Commerce Department says the July spending gain followed a similar 0.4 percent rise in June. Inflation, as measured by a gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve, rose 2.3 percent for the 12 months ending in July, the fastest annual increases since March 2012.

While the inflation increase was higher than the Fed's 2 percent target, central bank officials have said they are willing to tolerate slightly higher inflation for a time given the six-year period when inflation fell short of the 2 percent goal.

MORTGAGE RATES

Average 30-year mortgage rate inches up to 4.52 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates ticked up this week as borrowing costs are meaningfully higher than a year ago.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose slightly to 4.52 percent from 4.51 percent last week. The rate averaged 3.82 percent a year ago. Average rates began to climb after the tax cuts signed into law last year by President Donald Trump increased the federal budget deficit, as home loans generally move in sync with interest on 10-year Treasury notes.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans fell to 3.97 percent this week from 3.98 percent last week.

Because of rising home prices and borrowing costs, affordability has become a challenge for many would-be homebuyers and depressed sales of existing homes for the past four months.

TRADE-US-CANADA

Canadian envoy says she is 'encouraged' by NAFTA talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Canada's top trade negotiator says she's "encouraged" by urgent discussions that are intended to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Leaving a morning session with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer (LYT'-hy-zur), Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tells reporters, "We continue to be encouraged by the constructive atmosphere that I think both countries are bringing to the table."

On Monday, the United States and Mexico reached an agreement to replace NAFTA, a 24-year-old pact involving those two countries and Canada. But the new deal excluded Canada.

Freeland hurried to Washington to try to repair the damage. She's seeking to forge a three-country deal by Friday, starting a 90-day countdown that would let Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto sign the pact before leaving office Dec. 1.

The U.S. Business Roundtable and the Business Council of Canada are urging trade negotiators to agree to a version of NAFTA that continues to include the United States, Canada and Mexico. The two business groups said in a statement that "forfeiting this three-nation partnership would destabilize North American supply chains, jeopardize jobs and undermine economic growth."

EUROPE-US-TRADE

EU, US explore goods tariffs pact amid trade tensions

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's top trade official says the bloc is in exploratory talks with the United States to see whether it would be possible to reach a limited trans-Atlantic agreement on the tariff of goods.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Thursday that "this could be, possibly, a more limited trade agreement focused on tariffs on goods only."

As an attempt to ease trade war tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed last month to start talks intended to achieve "zero tariffs" and "zero subsidies" on non-automotive industrial goods.

Malmstrom rejected suggestions the EU is caving in to U.S. pressure, saying "we are not negotiating anything." The two sides are likely to hold talks in Brussels in coming weeks.

US-CHINA TARIFFS

China says it will move at own pace despite US pressure

BEIJING (AP) — China's government says it will make economic changes at its own pace regardless of U.S. pressure and that their spiraling dispute over technology can only be settled through talks as equals.

A Commerce Ministry spokesman gave no indication Thursday of possible plans for more negotiations after talks last week in Washington ended without progress.

Spokesman Gao Feng said, "no matter what measures the United States takes to exert pressure, China will proceed with reform and opening up at its own pace."

The two sides have raised tariffs on $50 billion of each other's products and the Trump administration is poised to add penalties on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Gao said dialogue "based on equality and integrity" is "the only correct choice" for resolving their dispute.

BRITAIN-PANASONIC

Report: Panasonic to move European headquarters out of UK

LONDON (AP) — Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has become the latest company to announce plans to move its European headquarters out of Britain ahead of Brexit.

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper reported Thursday that the company plans to relocate from the U.K. to Amsterdam in October to avoid potential corporation tax issues linked to Britain's exit from the European Union next year.

It quoted Panasonic Europe's CEO Laurent Abadie as saying that the move was also meant to help Panasonic avoid any barriers to the flow of people and goods after Brexit.

The report added that many of the company's 20 to 30 staff at the London office will be moved to the Netherlands.

Panasonic did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

CAMPBELL SOUP-REORGANIZATION

Campbell Soup plans to sell international, fresh units

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Campbell Soup Co. plans to focus on its core snacks and soup business in North America and sell its international business, paying down debt.

The Camden, New Jersey, company said Thursday it's working urgently to complete all the moves by next July.

The planned sales will leave Campbell Soup with brands including Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm and Snyder's of Hanover.

Separately Campbell Soup posted fiscal fourth-quarter net income of 31 cents per share, or 25 cents per share on an adjusted basis, beating the average Street estimate by a penny. Sales of $2.22 billion fell short.

In premarket trading, shares of the company rose 1 cent to $40. Shares are down nearly 17 percent in the year to date.

NARCAN ACQUISITION

Maryland pharma company buys overdose-reversing Narcan maker

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — A Maryland pharmaceutical company will acquire the maker of the opioid overdose reversal nasal spray Narcan.

The Baltimore Sun reports Emergent Solutions has agreed to pay $735 million in cash and stock to Ireland-based Adapt Pharma. CEO Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi said in a Wednesday statement the widely used drug aligns with Emergent's position "to protect and enhance life."

The federal government has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency that's claimed thousands of lives.

Narcan is the only approved nasal spray version of naxolone, costing $150 for two doses. While public health programs can negotiate lower prices, access and affordability remains an issue.

Emergent says the company plans to invest in addiction and overdose drugs and work with federal officials to ensure grants to offset costs.

CITRUS-FLORIDA

Hurricane Irma, disease, lowers value of Florida citrus crop

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Losses from Hurricane Irma last year sent the value of the 2017-18 Florida citrus crop plummeting 41 percent.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that's a preliminary estimate of last season's crop value released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA set the total 2017-18 Florida citrus crop value at nearly $551.2 million, down from a revised estimate of $927 million for the state's 2016-17 citrus crop. A year ago, the agency estimated the 2016-17 crop at $780.7 million.

Florida citrus acreage has declined continuously since 2000, at first under pressure from real estate developers buying groves for commercial development. Since 2005, the pressure has come from the fatal bacterial disease citrus greening.

Florida citrus production has dropped more than 70 percent since greening's arrival.

COAL PLANT CLOSINGS

Utility to close coal power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio-based energy company is closing its last coal-fired power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy Solutions said Wednesday it plans to shut down its remaining four coal plants by 2022. The three Ohio plants are on the Ohio River in Stratton. Its last Pennsylvania coal plant is in Shippingport.

The company says it can't compete in the regional wholesale markets that are managed by PJM Interconnection.

FES Generation Companies and Chief Nuclear Officer Donald Moul said in a statement the decision was difficult. Moul added that coal and nuclear power plants are losing out to cheaper energy sources like electricity and natural gas.

FirstEnergy announced earlier this year it would shut down its three nuclear plants.

MICROSOFT-PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

Microsoft to contractors: Give new parents paid leave

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft says it's requiring its contractors to offer their U.S. employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child.

It's common for tech firms to offer generous family leave benefits for their own engineers, but experts say it's rare to require similar benefits for janitors, landscapers and other contract workers.

The new policy affects businesses with at least 50 U.S.-based employees that supply Microsoft with various services.

The policy announced Thursday rolls out over the next year.

It expands on Microsoft's 2015 policy requiring contractors to offer paid sick days and vacation.

The company says it's partially inspired by a Washington state law taking effect in 2020 guaranteeing new parents 12 weeks paid time off.