FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mixed in midday trading on Wall Street.

Apple is on pace for its biggest gain in a year and a half after the company said its earnings jumped thanks to higher-priced iPhones. The stock rose 5.2 percent, bringing its value closer to $1 trillion.

But the surge in Apple's stock wasn't enough to lift the broader market as energy and industrial companies slumped. Energy companies fell along with oil prices.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.99 percent.

ADP EMPLOYMENT

Survey: US companies add healthy 219,000 jobs in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added 219,000 jobs in July, a private survey found, a robust total that suggests employers are still able to find the workers they need despite the low unemployment rate.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that hiring was led by health care providers, hotels and restaurants, and manufacturers. July's figure was up from 181,000 in June and is enough to lower the already-low jobless rate of 4 percent.

Last month's job gain comes as the economic expansion enters its tenth year, the second-longest in U.S. history. Tax cuts and greater government spending are accelerating growth.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which compiles the ADP data, said there were signs that tariffs imposed by the U.S. and other countries have led to job cuts at large multinational firms.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

US construction spending fell 1.1 percent in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects fell 1.1 percent in June, the biggest decline in more than a year as spending on public construction dropped at the highest rate in more than five years.

The Commerce Department says the decline in June brought total construction spending to a seasonally-adjusted $1.32 trillion, 6.1 percent higher than a year ago.

Despite the June declines, analysts expect construction spending to contribute to overall growth in the economy this year, particularly as the market for existing homes remains tight.

Government spending on construction projects fell 3.5 percent in June, the biggest decline since March of 2013.

Spending on private residential projects fell 0.5 percent in June, with apartment building projects seeing a 2.8 percent decline.

CONGRESS-SOCIAL MEDIA

Senate wrestles with response to foreign influence campaigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate intelligence committee is wrestling with how to respond to ongoing foreign efforts to undermine American democracy through social media.

Wednesday's committee hearing comes a day after Facebook announced it had uncovered "sophisticated" efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to manipulate U.S. politics.

The committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr, says social media is an important forum for free speech, but that foreign cyber actors are using U.S. rights to "weaken our country from within."

Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, says Russia's successful attempts to manipulate and hijack social media reveal the "dark underbelly" of social media platforms. Even after 18 months of study, he says the U.S. is only scratching the surface of Russia's information warfare campaign.

TRUMP-HEALTH OVERHAUL

Officials are promoting lower-cost, short-term health plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is clearing the way for insurers to sell short-term health plans as a bargain alternative to pricey Obama-law policies for people struggling with high premiums.

Officials hope the plans will appeal to people ineligible for income-based subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The new policies don't have to cover existing medical conditions and they offer limited benefits. That may not translate to broad consumer appeal among people who need an individual policy.

Critics say the plans are "junk insurance" that could lead to unwelcome surprises if a policyholder gets sick, and will entice healthy people away from the law's markets, raising premiums for those left. Under the Obama administration, such plans were limited to three months' duration. Some states do not permit them.

Officials say the plans can now last up to 12 months and be renewed for up to 36 months. But there's no federal guarantee of renewability. Plans will carry a disclaimer that they don't meet the Affordable Care Act's requirements and safeguards.

US-CHINA TARIFFS

China warns of retaliation if US takes more trade steps

BEIJING (AP) — China's government has warned it will retaliate if Washington imposes new trade penalties following a report the Trump administration will propose increasing the tariff rate on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, warned Tuesday that Beijing will "definitely fight back" to defend its "lawful rights and interests." He gave no details of possible retaliatory measures.

Bloomberg News reported, citing three unidentified sources, the Trump administration would propose imposing 25 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods, up from the planned 10 percent.

The two sides have imposed 25 percent tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods in a dispute over China's technology policy.

EUROPE-US-TRADE

EU imports of US soybeans were rising before deal with Trump

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union imports of U.S. soybeans were already rising substantially before a top EU official told President Donald Trump last week that the bloc would buy more.

EU Commission figures released Wednesday show that 37 percent of the bloc's soybean imports last month were coming from the U.S., compared with 9 percent in July 2017.

Amid a looming trade war over tariffs, Trump and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (zhahn-KLOHD' YUN'-kur) agreed on July 25 to start talks intended to achieve "zero tariffs" and "zero subsidies" on non-automotive industrial goods.

The EU also agreed to buy more U.S. soybeans and build more terminals to import liquefied natural gas from the United States.

Juncker said: "The European Union can import more soybeans from the U.S. and this is happening as we speak."

SUNDAY COMICS DROPPED-TARIFFS

Paper blames newsprint tariffs for dropping Sunday comics

LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) — Residents in a North Carolina town hoping to read "Rex Morgan M.D." with Sunday coffee are in for a rude awakening. And a newspaper says it's President Donald Trump's fault.

The Robesonian in Lumberton announced it's dropping an eight-page color comics section from Sunday editions.

A newspaper editorial said it cut the comics because of rising costs spurred by Trump administration tariffs on Canadian newsprint. The newspaper says it's "a decision that we really believe was made at the White House."

Instead, the newspaper with a Sunday circulation of 6,200 will run a single page of black-and-white comics and puzzles. Rex Morgan didn't make the cut.

Newspapers are reeling after tariffs put in place in March increased newsprint prices by 25 to 30 percent. Newsprint is generally the second-largest expense for local papers.

INVESTING FOR FREE

Fidelity slashes fees as funds battle for investors

NEW YORK (AP) — The price war among mutual fund companies is hitting a new frontier, to the further benefit of investors.

Fidelity says it will soon offer a pair of mutual funds that charge zero in expenses.

The new index funds are part of a suite of changes Fidelity is making to lower expenses and make investing easier, even for investors with smaller amounts to put into the market.

Mutual fund companies have been battling to attract customers, who have become increasingly aware of how much high fees can limit returns.

The two zero-fee Fidelity index funds will be available Friday. One will cover the U.S. stock market, and the other will follow the international stock market. These kinds of funds often form the centerpiece of a retirement portfolio, along with bond funds.

KROGER-DELIVERY

Kroger brings it home, introduces online delivery

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kroger is introducing online delivery as convenience becomes an increasingly crucial element in customer loyalty in a hyper-competitive atmosphere.

Kroger Ship will launch in Cincinnati, its home town, as well as Houston, Louisville, and Nashville. It will expand to other markets over the next few months. Kroger is the biggest grocery chain in the country by revenue, running 2,800 stores.

Delivery is free for any order with a tab exceeding $35. Smaller deliveries are $4.99 per order.

Kroger Co. is toying with other technologies in hopes of gaining an edge. It revealed in June that it was testing grocery deliveries with driverless cars.

Amazon.com is a huge threat to grocers because it's so convenient, but Kroger and other retailers are catching up.

PARASITE CONCERN-SALADS

USDA issues alert about salads, wraps due to parasite worry

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities have issued a public health alert about more than two dozen beef, pork and poultry salad and wrap products as a precaution due to possible parasite contamination.

The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service says the products, distributed by Indianapolis-based Caito Foods may be contaminated with cyclospora. The parasite causes intestinal illness.

The USDA says Caito Foods was notified from their lettuce supplier, Fresh Express, that the chopped romaine used in some of the salads was being recalled.

The products were sold by grocery stores including Trader Joe's, Walgreens and Kroger. They have the establishment number "EST. 39985 or P-39985." The USDA has posted a complete list online . Consumers are urged to throw them away.

MOLSON COORS-POT DRINKS

Molson Coors wants to sell pot-infused drinks in Canada

DENVER (AP) — Molson Coors will attempt to sell pot-infused drinks in Canada, where consumable marijuana will become legal next year.

Molson Coors Brewing Co. is based in Colorado, which along with Washington, were the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada in October, but consumable forms of the drug will be legal there in 2019.

The brewer said Wednesday that its Canadian division will partner with the Canadian cannabis producer The Hydropothecary Corp. to develop a non-alcoholic drink containing marijuana.

Molson Coors Canada will hold a 57.5 percent controlling stake in the stand-alone joint venture. Hydropothecary will own the remaining ownership interest.

The deal is expected to close before the end of September.

SPORTS BETTING

Sports betting begins at Harrah's Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A fourth Atlantic City casino has begun taking sports bets. Harrah's started accepting bets Wednesday, two days after Bally's, its sister property in Atlantic City, began accepting them.

Longtime customer Alan Kallman, of Monroe Township, placed the first bet at Harrah's, putting $25 on the New York Yankees to win the World Series.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May sided with New Jersey and struck down a decades-old federal ban on sports gambling outside of Nevada and three other states.

In addition to Harrah's and Bally's, the Borgata and Ocean Resort casinos in Atlantic City and the Monmouth Park and Meadowlands horse racing tracks now offer sports betting.