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Update on the latest business

August 9, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mixed in midday trading on Wall Street, moving between slight gains and losses. Technology stocks are rising while energy companies and banks slip.

Bond prices rose Thursday, sending yields lower, after the Labor Department reported that wholesale prices were little changed in July, a sign inflation pressures weakened slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.94 percent.

Yelp jumped more than 27 percent after raising its revenue forecast. Rite Aid slumped more than 10 percent after calling off its sale to the grocery chain Albertsons.

Flowserve, Viacom and Norwegian Cruise Line all rose sharply after reporting solid results.

PRODUCER PRICES

US producer prices flat in July, restraining inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale prices were unchanged in July after two months of large increases, a sign inflation pressures have softened.

The Labor Department says the producer price index — which measures price changes before they reach the consumer — increased 3.3 percent last month from a year earlier. That’s down slightly from 3.4 percent in June, which was the biggest in six years.

Gas prices and other energy costs fell after two months of strong gains, and food costs also declined. The price soybeans and other oilseeds fell 14 percent, the most in four years, likely reflecting a buildup in soybean stocks after China imposed tariffs on them in retaliation for U.S. duties.

With the economy growing at a healthy clip, inflation has perked up after a decade of tame prices.

MORTGAGE RATES

Average US mortgage rates decline; 30-year at 4.59 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates are down this week amid a restrained home buying season this summer.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages slipped to 4.59 percent from 4.60 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 3.90 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans fell to 4.05 percent this week from 4.08 percent last week.

SINCLAIR-TRIBUNE-TERMINATED

Tribune calls off $3.9B buyout by Sinclair

NEW YORK (AP) — Tribune is withdrawing from its $3.9 billion buyout by Sinclair and it’s filing a lawsuit against it, citing breach of contract.

Tribune Media Co. would be on the hook for a $135 million breakup fee, according to the agreement reached last year.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. had offered to buy the Chicago company’s 42 TV stations and had agreed to get rid of stations in some markets to gain regulatory approval. Tribune claims Sinclair used “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations” with the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission over regulatory requirements and refused to sell the stations it needed to.

The two companies had until midnight Wednesday to call off their deal.

Sinclair is one of the nation’s largest owners of TV stations.

ALBERTSONS-RITE AID-DEAL

Rite Aid, Albertsons call off merger deal

Drugstore chain Rite Aid and grocer Albertsons say they have called off their merger deal.

Rite Aid CEO John Standley said in a statement late Wednesday that after hearing the views of shareholders, Rite Aid is “committed to moving forward and executing our strategic plan as a standalone company.”

As a result, a special meeting of Rite Aid shareholders that was due to vote on the deal on Aug. 9 has been canceled.

Albertsons, which is privately owned and operates grocery chain Safeway, among others, announced in February a plan to buy Rite Aid’s more than 2,500 drugstores. The grocer offered either a share of its stock and $1.83 in cash or slightly more than one Albertsons share for every 10 Rite Aid shares.

JC PENNEY-BABY SHOPS

J.C. Penney to open 500 baby shops amid Babies R Us demise

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney is expanding the baby products it sells at stores beyond clothing as the department store joins the many other chains trying to claim some of the Babies R Us sales up for grabs.

The Plano, Texas-based chain is opening baby shops in 500 stores that are near now-shuttered Babies R Us locations, now that Babies R Us owner Toys R Us has liquidated. Starting Aug. 30, J.C. Penney will sell in stores items like cribs, high chairs, strollers and car seats that it had formerly sold on its website only.

Retailers like Walmart, Target, BuyBuy Baby and Amazon are trying to attract former Babies R Us shoppers by adding more baby products, enlisting pregnant celebrities for promotions, or helping people recreate their gift registries.

SAMSUNG’S NEXT PHONE

New Samsung smartphone offers incremental improvements

NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung has announced that its next major smartphone will come out Aug. 24.

The new Galaxy Note 9 will be faster and last longer without a recharge. But don’t expect earth-shattering features.

The improvements reflect a general stagnation in smartphone hardware innovation. Major changes tend to come every few years rather than annually. This isn’t the year for anything revolutionary in the Note.

The new phone will get some automatic photo editing and a stylus that can serve as a remote control. But the highlights will be a bigger battery, faster processor and improved cellular speeds.

Thursday’s announcement in New York precedes Apple’s expected release of new iPhones by about a month.

BUBBLE WRAP-SEC INVESTIGATION

Bubble Wrap maker under investigation by the SEC

(Information in the following story is from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Bubble Wrap trademark holder and maker is under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission.

The Charlotte Observer reports Sealed Air said in its second-quarter earnings report Monday that it received a subpoena on June 25 for accounting and financial reporting documents.

Sealed Air says it’s cooperating with the SEC. A company spokeswoman declined to say what the SEC is looking into specifically.

The quarterly report also says Sealed Air is involved in “various other legal actions” that company officials don’t believe will seriously affect its financial health.

The company experienced significant shake-ups last year, including the sale of certain businesses for about $3.2 billion, the replacement of its chief financial officer, and the departure of longtime CEO Jerome Peribere.

Sealed Air moved to Charlotte in 2014. It employs roughly 1,000 people there.

OIL LEAK-ARKANSAS

Exxon asked to pay $1.8M for Arkansas oil spill damage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — State and federal officials are asking Exxon Mobil to pay more than $1.8 million in compensation for a 2013 oil spill in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the state Game and Fish Commission proposed the settlement Tuesday. The funds would pay for wildlife restoration and compensate the government for damage caused when the 70-year-old Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower near Lake Conway.

The letter also asks the oil giant to fund the state’s purchase of land near the lake to facilitate monitoring and management of the property.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry declined comment. The company settled a lawsuit last year with dozens of families whose properties were damaged.

The pipeline runs about 850 miles (1,368 kilometers) through Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Texas. It was closed shortly after the spill, but a segment in Texas has since reopened.

EUROPE-US-TRADE-ENERGY

EU urges US to cut red tape on liquefied natural gas exports

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is urging the United States to cut red tape and simplify rules for the export of its liquefied natural gas if Washington wants the 28-nation bloc to buy more.

Amid a trade dispute over tariffs, President Donald Trump and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed last month to start talks intended to achieve “zero tariffs” and “zero subsidies” on non-automotive industrial goods.

The EU also agreed to build more terminals to import U.S. liquefied natural gas.

Juncker said Thursday that if it’s cheap enough, U.S. gas could help the EU diversify energy supplies and break its dependency on Russia.

But he said “the U.S. needs to play its role in doing away with red tape restrictions.”

Senior EU and U.S. trade officials meet in Washington on Aug. 20.

BRITAIN-DATA PRIVACY

UK watchdog fines child care company for selling data

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s information watchdog has fined a firm that offers advice on pregnancy and child care 140,000 pounds ($180,000) for illegally collecting and selling personal information that ended up being used in a database for the Labour Party.

The Information Commissioner’s Office says Lifecycle Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd, also known as Emma’s Diary, sold the information on 1 million people to Experian Marketing Services. Experian created a database to help the Labour Party profile new mothers before the 2017 General Election.

The ICO says the company’s privacy policies didn’t disclose that the data would be used for political marketing or by political parties.

The case is part of ongoing investigations into the use of data for political purposes.

Data Commissioner Elizabeth Denham says “the democratic process must be transparent.”

BUFFETT FOUNDATION-ILLINOIS

Warren Buffett’s son announces $30M Illinois investment

(Information in the following story is from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com)

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — The foundation of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s son plans to invest $30 million in a central Illinois campus of facilities to help people with drug addiction and bring together social services.

The (Decatur) Herald and Review reports Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett announced plans Wednesday in Decatur. Crossing Healthcare, which serves primarily low- and moderate-income residents, will own four new facilities including a residential rehabilitation building and outpatient treatment center.

Howard Buffett says the investment “will address the health of our community at multiple levels.”

Howard Buffett was appointed sheriff in September and was an executive at Archer Daniels Midland. Warren Buffett has helped the Howard G. Buffett Foundation by giving his Berkshire Hathaway stock. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to projects in central Illinois.

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