FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stock indexes edge higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving higher in midday trading on Wall Street, having shaken off an early wobble, as the market heads for a second straight week of healthy gains.

Industrial and energy companies are up more than the rest of the market. United Technologies rose 1.6 percent and EOG Resources rose 1.7 percent,

Financial stocks were broadly lower after investors weren't impressed with earnings reports from major banks. Wells Fargo, which has been plagued by investigations into fake accounts, lost 2.3 percent after reporting a drop in earnings.

FEDERAL RESERVE-ECONOMY

Federal Reserve projects further gradual hikes in key rate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says it expects low unemployment and rising inflation will keep it on track to raise interest rates at a gradual pace over the next two years. By late 2019, the Fed says its key policy rate should be at a level that will be slightly restrictive for growth.

The Fed's projection on rate hikes came with release of the central bank's semi-annual monetary report to Congress. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify on the report for two days next week.

The Fed last month raised its policy rate for a second time this year and projected two more hikes in 2018. The monetary report says the expectation is that further hikes will leave the rate slightly above its neutral level by late next year.

TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE

12 Russians accused of hacking Democrats in 2016 US election

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has announced charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offenses during the 2016 presidential election.

The indictments were announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of the ongoing special counsel probe into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Russians were accused of hacking into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Before Friday, 20 people and three companies had been charged in the Mueller investigation. That includes four former Trump campaign and White House aides and 13 Russians accused of participating in a hidden but powerful social media campaign to sway American public opinion in the 2016 election.

TRUMP-CABINET TRAVEL

Agency watchdog slams ex-HHS chief Price on costly travel

WASHINGTON (AP) — An agency watchdog says the government wasted at least $341,000 on travel by ousted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, including on charter flights without considering cheaper scheduled airlines.

The HHS inspector general's office released its long-awaited report Friday, also chastising the department for flouting federal travel rules.

Price previously apologized, and repaid nearly $60,000. Authorities should seek full recovery, the report said.

The inspector general estimated taxpayers spent a total of nearly $1.2 million on Price's travel during his seven months in office.

Costly travel by top officials became a running story as the Trump administration took power.

Price was forced out in the fall of 2017 after his travel drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who was also upset over the GOP failure to repeal "Obamacare."

US-TRUMP-LAWYER-SENATE REPORT

Report: Ex-Trump lawyer often in touch with drug firm execs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A report released by a group of Senate Democrats says President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer was in frequent contact with top officials of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis as part of the lawyer's $1.2 million consulting deal with the Swiss-based company.

The report also says the company expected lawyer Michael Cohen to provide access to Trump administration policymakers, though the report doesn't show any evidence that Cohen approached Trump or others in the administration.

Novartis is disputing the report's conclusion that the company tried to play down its dealings with Cohen.

The report offers new details about Cohen's interactions with top Novartis officials. And it hints of his efforts to persuade clients that he had intimate knowledge of the policies and personnel that Trump's White House would promote.

OKLAHOMA MEDICAID-EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM

Oklahoma Medicaid approved for drug pricing experiment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's Medicaid program is the nation's first to be approved for a drug pricing experiment that supporters say could save taxpayer dollars and provide patients with the most effective medications.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in June approved a plan called "value-based purchasing" in which the state would pay a drugmaker a set amount if its medication works as advertised, but only a fraction of that if it isn't as effective as promised.

Oklahoma Health Care Authority Pharmacy Director Nancy Nesser said the state could possibly save "a couple of million" of the approximately $650 million spent on prescription drugs last fiscal year.

Pharmaceutical companies are not required to participate in the program, but Nesser said several have shown interest.

SCAM LETTERS-FDA WARNING

FDA warns of fake gov't warning letters sent to consumers

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health authorities are alerting consumers to a new scam involving fake government warning letters sent to people who tried to buy medicines online or over the phone.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that the fake letters may be part of an extortion scam. However, authorities have not yet documented cases of consumers being coerced to turn over money.

The forged letters claim to be from the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission, but those agencies almost never issue such warnings to private individuals, but rather to companies, professionals or industry officials. The letters falsely claim that the government is investigating the drugs the consumers attempted to purchase.

FDA officials have repeatedly warned about the risks of buying medicines through unverified online pharmacies.

NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL

Nissan recalls about 105K cars to replace Takata air bags

DETROIT (AP) — Nissan is recalling nearly 105,000 small cars to replace Takata passenger air bag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel at drivers and passengers.

Included are the 2011 Versa sedan and the 2011 and 2012 Versa hatchback. It only applies to cars that have been registered in 42 states and Washington, D.C., as part of a coordinated phase-in of Takata recalls.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate due to high temperatures and humidity and blow apart a metal canister. At least 23 people have died worldwide and about 300 have been hurt.

Owners will be notified by mail and dealers will replace the inflators for free. The recall starts this month.

PENCE-GAS STATION EMPIRE

Pence family gas stations left costly environmental legacy

GARDEN CITY, Ind. (AP) — The collapse of a gas station chain owned for decades by Vice President Mike Pence's family has cost taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites in three states.

That's the finding of an Associated Press analysis of court documents, business records and environmental reports.

When Kiel Bros. Oil Co. went out of business in 2004, the bankruptcy was widely publicized. But less known is that the state of Indiana — and, to a smaller extent, Kentucky and Illinois — are still on the hook for millions of dollars to clean up sites that include underground tanks that leaked toxic chemicals into the environment.

Since the bankruptcy, Indiana alone has spent at least $21 million on the cleanup. And the work is nowhere near complete.

REFINERY-NATIONAL PARK

Groups sue North Dakota over oil refinery near national park

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Three environmental groups are suing North Dakota over an air quality permit that allows construction of an $800 million oil refinery about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

National Parks Conservation Association, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council filed the lawsuit in state court on Thursday.

The lawsuit says the state erred when it concluded the proposed Davis Refinery wouldn't be a major source of pollution and wouldn't negatively impact the park.

Meridian Energy Group in June received the permit from North Dakota's Health Department allowing construction to proceed. The company maintains the plant will be "the cleanest refinery on the planet."

State Air Quality Director Terry O'Clair says he stands behind the "very thorough review" of the project.

PAPA JOHN'S-FOUNDER

APNewsBreak: Papa John's to pull founder from marketing

NEW YORK (AP) — Papa John's plans to pull founder John Schnatter's image from marketing materials following reports he used a racial slur.

A person inside the company with knowledge of the decision said the decision to remove Schnatter as the marketing face of Papa John's was made by top executives and the details and exact timing are still being worked out.

The person, who was notified of the decision but wasn't authorized to speak publicly, was not aware of any plans to change the pizza chain's name.

Schnatter had apologized and said he would resign as chairman after Forbes reported that he used the N-word during a media training session. Schnatter had stepped down as CEO last year after criticizing NFL protests. He remains on the board and is the largest shareholder.