Update on the latest in business:
Jul. 31, 2018
Stocks move higher after three days of losses
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher in afternoon trading after a three-day losing streak.
Industrial companies are making some of the largest gains today. Boeing rose 1.9 percent and 3M gained 2.9 percent.
Ralph Lauren rose 1 percent and Charter Communications climbed 5.8 percent following strong second-quarter reports.
Consumer spending up solid 0.4 percent in June
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer spending rose by a solid 0.4 percent in June, while a key gauge of inflation increased at an annual pace of 2.2 percent for a second straight month, the strongest back-to-back gains in six years.
The Commerce Department says the gain in spending followed an even stronger 0.5 percent rise in May, which was revised from a 0.2 percent initial estimate. Incomes rose a solid 0.4 percent in June, matching the May increase.
The 2.2 percent rise in prices over the past 12 months matched the 12-month gain in May. Inflation over the past four months has been at 2 percent or slightly above 2 percent, which is the target the Federal Reserve seeks to achieve for price gains.
US consumer confidence edges up in July
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans were a bit more confident about the economy in July, but their expectations for the near future dimmed slightly.
The Conference Board, a business research group, says its consumer confidence index rose to 127.4 this month from 127.1 in June.
The index measures both consumers' assessment of current economic conditions and expectations for the future. Their view of current conditions in July was the rosiest since March 2001. But their expectations for the next six months dropped for the second straight month to the lowest reading since December.
Economic growth clocked in at an annual pace of 4.1 percent from April through June, fastest since 2014. The unemployment rate is 4 percent, at or below what economists consider full employment.
US home prices march higher in May, throttling sales
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S home prices rose rapidly in May, a trend that is thwarting some would-be buyers and pulling down home sales.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 6.5 percent in May from a year earlier. That's down slightly from April, but is still more than double the increase workers are seeing in their paychecks.
Mortgage rates have also increased, pushing up monthly costs for home buyers even further. Sales of existing homes have fallen for three straight months after peaking in November. Pending home sales have also declined over the past year.
Still, home prices in some of the hottest real estate markets continue to move higher: Prices rose 13.6 percent in Seattle from a year earlier, 12.6 percent in Las Vegas and 10.9 percent in San Francisco.
Pay gains for US workers slowed in second quarter
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. workers saw their wages and benefits grow more slowly in the second quarter, a sign that a tight labor market has yet to accelerate income gains.
The Labor Department says overall compensation rose 0.6 percent in the April-June period, compared with a 0.8 percent rise in the first quarter.
Wages and salaries, which account for 70 percent of compensation, rose 0.5 percent, compared to a 0.9 percent gain in the first quarter. Benefits costs rose 0.9 percent, compared to 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2018. Benefits costs cover pensions and health insurance.
Wages and salaries rose 2.9 percent in June from a year earlier, a solid gain. But it was the same annual pace reached in March even though the unemployment rate has hovered near 17-year lows.
Trump administration considering tax break on capital gains
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is considering implementing a big tax break for wealthy American by reducing the taxes levied on capital gains, according to published reports.
The reports say the administration is considering bypassing Congress to put the change into effect, although such a move would almost certainly trigger court challenges.
The change would involve taxing capital gains — profits on investments such as stocks or real estate — after taking into account inflation, which would lower the tax bite. Capital gains taxes are currently determined by subtracting the original price of an asset from the price at which it was sold and taxing the difference without taking inflation into account.
The proposal was reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Facebook finds 'sophisticated' efforts to disrupt elections
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says it has uncovered "sophisticated" efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to influence U.S. politics on its platforms.
The company says it removed 32 accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in "coordinated" behavior and appeared to be fake.
The company says it doesn't know who is behind the efforts, but said there are may be connections to Russia. Facebook says it has found some connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The earliest page was created in March 2017. Facebook says more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages. The most followed Facebook Pages were "Aztlan Warriors," ''Black Elevation," ''Mindful Being," and "Resisters."
Trump looking at 3D guns issue
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he is consulting with the National Rifle Association over whether it makes sense for a Texas company to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun.
Trump tweeted Tuesday he is "looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public," adding that he "already spoke to NRA."
The president expressed doubt, saying "doesn't seem to make much sense!" He did not offer further details.
Trump spoke after eight states filed suit against the administration, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety.
The suit, filed Monday in Seattle, asks a judge to block the federal government's late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the company to make the plans available online.
Polluting parts force US recall of half-million trucks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing the recall of a half-million trucks with faulty pollution controls.
The agency says a defective part means pollution controls on the truck's engines wear out more quickly than allowed.
The recall affects 2010-2015 medium- and heavy trucks with engines made by Cummins Inc. The trucks range from big pickups to utility trucks to big rigs.
The EPA says emissions testing by the agency and by California discovered the problem.
IMF doubts Greece's debt is sustainable in the long term
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The International Monetary Fund says Greece still faces an uphill struggle after the forthcoming end of its bailouts, and its long-term debt sustainability remains uncertain.
In a report made public Tuesday the IMF recommended a reduction in high direct taxes, which were imposed to right the country's public finances but constrain growth.
The economy is expected to grow 2 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2019 but will slow to 1.2 percent in 2022.
The IMF, which contributed to Greece's bailout loans, said European creditors' agreement last month to ease loan repayment terms ensures medium-term sustainability for the debt. It will fall from a staggering 188 percent of annual output this year to just below 140 percent by 2037.
After that, however, the debt-to-output ratio will begin to rise.
Discount ticket service MoviePass raises prices by 50 pct
NEW YORK (AP) — MoviePass, the discount service for movie tickets, is raising prices by 50 percent and barring viewings of most major releases during the first two weeks.
The new $15-a-month rate for up to one movie each day still won't make MoviePass profitable. Because it typically pays theaters the full cost of tickets — which can be $15 or more in big cities — a movie or two can put the service in the red. The old monthly rate was $10.
To curtail expenses, subscribers won't be able to watch most blockbusters until the third week of release. However, a movie distributor can allow earlier viewings through MoviePass by reaching revenue-sharing or other arrangements with MoviePass.
MoviePass has proved popular with 3 million subscribers, but there are questions about whether it's sustainable.