NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes were posting slight losses in early trading on Wall Street Wednesday as a weak showing for railroad operator CSX pulled industrial companies broadly lower.
Banks were also falling as investors worry that lower interest rates will hurt their profits going forward.
Technology stocks bucked the downward trend and put up some solid gains. Qualcomm rose 0.6% following reports that the government asked a court to pause enforcement of an antitrust ruling. Microsoft, Intel and Adobe also rose.
Corporate earnings reports are getting into full swing this week, and investor have been mostly cautious in their assessments of them. Earnings are still expected to decline for S&P 500 companies in the second quarter.
CSX plunged 11.4% after saying it now expects its revenue to decline up to 2% this year, after previously saying it expected growth. Investors read that as trouble for the entire industry and sent the stock of other railroad operators lower. Union Pacific sank 5.2% and Norfolk Southern dropped 5.5%.
Abbott Laboratories gained 4.2% and pushed health care stocks higher after the maker of infant formula and drugs raised its financial forecast for the year. UnitedHealth Group also rose.
Several large companies are scheduled to report earnings later today and throughout the remainder of the week. Netflix will release its results after the market closes, as will IBM. UnitedHealth Group, Phillip Morris and Morgan Stanley are scheduled to release their results Thursday.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.3% as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36 points, or 0.1%, to 27,298. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1%. Small-company stocks did worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index fell 0.6%..
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction slipped last month as an uptick in the building of single-family homes was offset by a big drop in apartment construction.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that construction was started at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.25 million in June, down 0.9% from 1.27 million in May. Construction of single-family homes rose 3.5%, but apartment building skidded 9.4%.
Applications for building permits, an indication of future construction, fell 6.1% last month to 1.22 million, the lowest since May 2017.
Falling mortgage rates are expected to spur home construction, overriding other concerns such as shortages of building lots and construction workers. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate home loan last week stood at 3.75%, down from 4.53% a year ago.
"Still, pullback in building permits in June suggests further weakness could be in the pipeline," Shernette McLeod, economist at TD Economics, said in a research note. "Rising costs, lack of land and labor shortages continue to pose challenges to builders, impeding their ability to fully take advantage lower borrowing rates to construct more in demand entry-level units."
Home construction overall was up 6.2% last month from June 2018. Single-family construction slid 0.8% and apartment building jumped 25.3% from a year earlier.
Housing starts rose 31.3% from May to June in the Northeast and 27.1% in the Midwest but fell 9.2% in the South and 4.9% in the West.
Separately, the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday reported a big drop in foreign investment in U.S. homes. The association found that foreign buyers bought $77.9 billion worth of existing U.S. homes from April 2018 through March this year. That marked a 36% drop from the same period a year earlier.
Big Tech faced tough questions Tuesday as federal lawmakers focused on issues of potentially anticompetitive behavior by technology giants and expressed bipartisan skepticism over Facebook's plan for a new digital currency.
Companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have long enjoyed nearly unbridled growth and a mythic stature as once-scrappy startups — born in garages and a dorm room and a road trip across the United States — that grew up to dominate their rivals. But as they've grown more powerful, critics have also grown louder, questioning whether the companies stifle competition and innovation, and if their influence poses a danger to society.
Both Democrats and Republicans had grievances to air, even if there wasn't much consensus on what to do about them.
An afternoon panel of the House Judiciary Committee focused on whether it's time for Congress to rein in these companies, which are among the largest on Earth by several measures. Central to that case is whether their business practices run afoul of century-old laws originally designed to combat railroad and oil monopolies.
For some legislators, mostly Democrats, those laws are in need of updates or at least more stringent enforcement. Ultimately such action could lead to breaking up big online platforms, blocking future acquisitions or imposing other limits on their actions.
Subcommittee chairman David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, charged that technology giants had enjoyed "de facto immunity" thanks to current antitrust doctrine, which typically equates anticompetitive behavior with higher prices for consumers. That allowed them to expand without restraint and to gobble up potential competitors, he argued, creating a "startup kill zone" that prevents smaller companies from challenging incumbents with innovative services and...
Apple and Google are rolling out dozens of new emojis that of course include cute critters, but also expand the number of images of human diversity.
The announcement coincides with Wednesday's World Emoji Day .
Apple Inc. is releasing new variants of its holding hands emoji that allow people to pick any combination of skin tone and gender, 75 possible combinations in all. There are also wheelchairs, prosthetic arms and legs, as well as a new guide dog and an ear with a hearing aid.
And then there's the sloth, the flamingo, the skunk, the orangutan, as well as a new yawning emoji.
New emojis routinely pop up every year. Earlier this year the Unicode Consortium approved 71 new variations of emoji for couples of color.
Apple's new emojis will be available in the fall with a free software update for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Google said its emojis will be released with Android Q later this year.
NEW YORK (AP) — Kohl's is launching an early wave of hires for the back-to-school through the holiday season across 500 stores, nearly double the number with early hiring position compared with last year.
The hiring, announced on Wednesday, will kick off in August and include stores and distribution and e-commerce fulfillment centers. The department store chain is also hiring 3,000 full-time and part-time workers for all stores nationwide.
The move comes as retailers struggle to find skilled workers in a tight job market where the unemployment rate is near a five-decade low. Overall, employers have been adding jobs faster than new workers flow into the economy.
Kohl's Corp. announced in late June a year ago it was looking for workers at 300 stores in its early wave of hires for the back half.
CHANTILLY, France (AP) — The Trump administration is objecting to France's plan to tax Facebook, Google and other U.S. tech giants, a rift that's overshadowing talks between seven longtime allies near Paris this week on issues ranging from digital currencies to trade.
As finance ministers from the Group of Seven rich democracies gathered Wednesday at a chateau in Chantilly, near Paris, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin planned to take a tough line against host France.
He was going to object to France's proposed 3% tax on revenues of large tech companies with the G-7 host, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, according to a senior U.S. Treasury official.
The controversial tax, which the French parliament passed days ago and could be signed into law within weeks, has already provoked a strong rebuke from the White House, which said it could lead to U.S. tariffs on French imports.
The rift risks feeding into broader disagreements, including on trade, after the U.S. imposed tariffs on some EU goods last year, drawing retaliation from Europe.
"We are very disappointed that France has passed a unilateral service tax," said the Treasury official, who said Mnuchin was set to raise the issue during Wednesday's bilateral meeting with Le Maire. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the meeting had not yet taken place.
French officials have indicated the digital tax is intended to spur an international agreement during the G-7 meeting and pledged it would be withdrawn if a deal is forged. The strategy is meant to provide negotiating leverage with the U.S., an approach that some have compared with the go-it-alone approach of U.S. President Donald Trump.
"We (are)... accepting to negotiate a new global taxation on digital activities," Le Maire told reporters...
NEW YORK (AP) — The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local):
Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street as gains for health care companies are offset by losses in banks and industrial companies.
Abbott Laboratories rose 4% in early trading Wednesday, while Comerica fell 3.9%. Textron lost 3.5% after reporting revenue that fell short of analysts' estimates.
Qualcomm rose 2% following reports that the government asked a court to pause enforcement of an antitrust ruling against the company.
The S&P 500 index was little changed at 3,004.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 20 points, or 0.1%, to 27,316. The Nasdaq rose 4 points, or 0.1%, to 8,227.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.09%.
WASHINGTON (AP) — US home construction slips 0.9% to 1.25 million in June; apartment building drops sharply.
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is opening a new front in its quest to more closely regulate big tech companies, saying Wednesday it was investigating whether U.S. online giant Amazon uses data from independent retailers to gain an illegal edge when selling its own products.
EU antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she is taking a "very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules."
In addition to selling its own products, Amazon also allows third-party retailers to sell their goods through its site. Last year, more than half of the items sold on Amazon worldwide were from third-party sellers.
The EU opened a preliminary probe into the issue last year, and Vestager said it has shown that "Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information - about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace." Using the information could give it an unfair competitive edge.
In a parallel case, Germany's competition regulator said Wednesday that Amazon was changing some of its business conditions for traders on its online marketplace worldwide after it raised concerns about some terms. The regulator said that the changes affect a range of issues such as a one-sided exemption from liability to Amazon's benefit as well as the place of jurisdiction for disputes.
Other EU countries like Austria, Luxembourg and Italy are also independently investigating Amazon but EU spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said the national probes did not overlap with the EU investigation.
Amazon said it would cooperate with the EU authorities, according to media reports.
The EU's investigations into major companies like Amazon have led the way in a global push to more tightly...
NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America's second-quarter profits rose by 8% from a year earlier, the company said Wednesday, as the consumer banking giant has benefitted greatly from the rise in interest rates as well as consumers and businesses more willing to borrow.
The bank earned $7.35 billion, or 74 cents per share, compared with $6.78 billion, or 63 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Analysts were looking for BofA to earn 71 cents a share, according to FactSet.
Like the other big banks who have reported their results this week, Bank of America's profits have risen in no small part due to the rise in interest rates over the last few years. It's allowed banks to charge more for consumers and businesses to borrow.
At BofA, interest income at the bank rose 3% from a year earlier. Meanwhile the bank was able to keep expenses relatively stable and did not report a significant rise in delinquencies or credit losses. The bank also did not have to significantly increase the amount it was paying depositors, reporting only a 0.77% rate on interest-bearing deposits in the quarter. That's up mildly from 0.73% a year earlier.
The Charlotte, North Carolina, bank was able to grow both loans and deposits in the quarter, despite the rise in interest rates for loans and less yield on deposits.
Other part's of BofA's businesses were quieter in the quarter, reflecting that investors largely stayed on the sidelines in the last three months due to the economic uncertainty tied to the U.S-China trade wars and the future direction of interest rates. The bank's global markets division saw profits fall from $1.27 billion to $1.07 billion this quarter, on lower trading and less investment banking fees.
Firmwide, Bank of America had revenue of $23.08 billion, up from $22.55 billion in the same period a year earlier.
TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday after Wall Street ended a five-day winning streak following disappointing corporate earnings reports.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dipped 0.3% to 21,475.38 in morning trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4% to 6,667.60. South Korea's Kospi dipped 1.0% to 2,072.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2% to 28,549,53, while the Shanghai Composite was nearly flat at 2,938.49.
President Donald Trump told a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that he was still waiting to see if China would buy more farm products as he expects.
"We have a long way to go on tariffs with China," Trump said. "We have another $325 billion that we can put a tariff on if we want," he said.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently agreed to hold off on further tariffs to allow negotiators to resume talks on the dispute over China's massive trade surplus and its policies aimed at developing advanced technologies in an array of industries.
Trump began ramping up tariffs on Chinese products a year ago and Beijing responded with punitive tariffs of its own.
Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier that he expects more talks with his Chinese counterparts this week. Prospects for progress are uncertain, however, since the main issues blocking agreement have not been resolved.
"President Trump's renewed threat of more tariffs on Chinese goods has investors bracing for weak trading in the Asian session today, tracking the negative sentiment in the U.S. overnight," ING economists Nicholas Mapa and Prakash Sakpal said in their report.
The S&P 500 fell 0.3% to 3,004.04, the first decline in the benchmark index after five days of gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1% to 27,335.63. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.4% to 8,222.80. The Russell...
HONOLULU (AP) — Astronomers have indefinitely stopped looking through 13 existing telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii while protesters block the road downslope in an attempt to prevent the construction of a giant new observatory.
Dozens of researchers around the world won't be able to gather data and study the skies as a result of the move. Observations won't resume until staff have consistent access to the summit, said Jessica Dempsey, the deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, one of the existing telescopes.
The announcement came as Native Hawaiian protesters blocked the base of the road for a second day on Tuesday. They object to the construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, which is expected to be one of the world's most advanced when it's built, out of concern it will further harm an area some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.
Hawaii authorities haven't arrested any protesters, though have indicated they would. Jason Redulla, chief of the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, said law enforcement was focused on preparing a path to construction on Tuesday.
Jessica Dempsey, the deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, said consistent access to summit is needed to ensure the safety of staff. She said researchers would understand the need for suspension.
"Our science time is precious but in this case, our priority is just to make sure all of our staff is safe," Dempsey said.
The East Asian Observatory was scheduled to study carbon monoxide clouds in star-forming regions inside the Milky Way galaxy on Tuesday night. Dempsey called the clouds "the DNA of how baby stars form" and said they help astronomers figure out how stars work.
Protesters said they told law enforcement they would allow telescope...
MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (AP) — Protesters against building a giant telescope on top of a mountain some Native Hawaiians consider sacred said they tried unsuccessfully Tuesday to negotiate access up Mauna Kea while the road to the summit is closed in preparation for construction equipment to be taken up.
Kaho'okahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, told reporters that activists asked state officials if they could have one vehicle access the road daily. He said that in exchange, protesters would have allowed workers at the mountain's 13 existing telescopes to travel freely, but no agreement was reached.
Mauna Kea observatories are suspending operations while protesters block the road downslope. East Asian Observatory Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said Tuesday the existing observatories decided to withdraw personnel from the summit for safety.
Gov. David Ige has said unarmed National Guard units would be used to transport personnel and supplies and enforce road closures but would not be used in law enforcement capacity during the protests.
Protesters won't allow National Guard members to pass, Kanuha said.
"We are at a standstill," he said.
Several hundred gathered at the base of Mauna Kea Tuesday. The crowd was smaller than the one that assembled a day earlier, when officials closed the road to the summit and eight protesters shackled themselves to each other over a grate in the road.
Authorities didn't arrest anyone, saying their priority was installing concrete barriers along a nearby highway to create a buffer between speeding cars and the large numbers of people congregating in the area.
"We understand that this going to be a prolonged struggle," Kanuha said.
Astronomers are hopeful the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope will help them study the earliest moments...
HONOLULU (AP) — The Latest on efforts to resume construction of a giant telescope on a mountain some Native Hawaiians consider sacred (all times local):
Existing telescopes on the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea are suspending operations while protesters block the road downslope to prevent the construction of a new observatory.
East Asian Observatory Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said in a statement Tuesday the existing observatories made a joint decision to withdraw personnel from their telescopes at the summit.
She says they're acting to secure the safety of their staff.
She says the observatories will resume normal operations as soon as the situation allows.
There are 13 existing telescopes at the summit, many of which are used by the world's leading astronomers to study the skies.
Protesters are blocking the road in an attempt to prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which would be the largest optical telescope in the Northern Hemisphere.
Annette Reyes is a Native Hawaiian who supports building a massive telescope on Hawaii's tallest mountain.
She says there are many others like her, but they're reluctant to publicly support Thirty Meter Telescope because of bullying from protesters she calls a "vocal minority." She says she's been called a fake Hawaiian for supporting the project.
Reyes says Hawaii's youth can't afford to miss out on the educational opportunities the telescope has brought.
Some Native Hawaiians say the project will desecrate sacred land. Reyes doesn't agree.
She says science is an integral part of Hawaiian culture. She says ancient Hawaiians practiced science while farming fish and navigating the seas.
Protesters continue to gather at the base of Mauna Kea...
Between May and June 2019 the average rent in Seattle rose by 1.3%, but 17 other cities near the Seattle metro area felt sharper increases month to month, according to a new report from apartment search website RentCafe.
United Airlines glided through the first part of summer, as strong travel demand pushed average fares higher, but the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets will become a bigger challenge in the months ahead.
United said Tuesday that its second-quarter profit soared 54%, to $1.05 billion. The results beat expectations, and United slightly raised its forecast of full-year profit.
The Chicago-based airline, however, faces uncertainty because of the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets after two deadly accidents.
United is dipping into the used-plane market to bolster its fleet. The airline said that it recently signed an agreement to buy 19 used Boeing 737-700 jets, which will start showing up in December.
The airline counted on the Max becoming a bigger part of its fleet, growing from 14 planes to 30 by the end of September, and 28 more of them next year. That plan is now in jeopardy, as Boeing has halted Max deliveries with no clear idea yet when the plane will be certified to fly again.
The missing planes will leave a huge gap in United's schedule and cut into the airline's revenue. United has already canceled more than 8,000 flights by taking the Max out of its schedule through Nov. 3, and the number will grow the longer the planes remain grounded.
Without those planes, Boeing is slowing down its expansion plans. The airline had expected to boost passenger-carrying capacity by 4% to 6% this year, but on Tuesday it said it will grow more modestly, between 3% and 4%.
The slower growth in capacity, combined with strong demand, means that airline pricing power "remains quite strong," said Cowen airline analyst Helane Becker.
United's slower growth also reflects the airline's decision earlier this year to suspend flights between New York and New Delhi after Pakistan closed its...
WASHINGTON (AP) — Under sharp criticism from senators, a Facebook executive on Tuesday defended the social network's ambitious plan to create a digital currency and pledged to work with regulators to achieve a system that protects the privacy of users' data.
"We know we need to take the time to get this right," David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, told the Senate Banking Committee at a hearing.
But that message did little to assure senators. Members of both parties demanded to know why a company with massive market power and a track record of scandals should be trusted with such a far-reaching project, given the potential for fraud, abuse and criminal activity.
"Facebook is dangerous," asserted Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee's senior Democrat. Like a toddler playing with matches, "Facebook has burned down the house over and over," he told Marcus. "Do you really think people should trust you with their bank accounts and their money?"
Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona said "the core issue here is trust." Users won't be able to opt out of providing their personal data when joining the new digital wallet for Libra, McSally said. "Arizonans will be more likely to be scammed" using the currency, she said.
The litany of criticism came as Congress began two days of hearings on the currency planned by Facebook, to be called Libra. Meanwhile, a House Judiciary subcommittee extended its bipartisan investigation of the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.
On the defensive from bursts of aggressive questioning, Facebook's Marcus indicated the currency plan is a work in progress. "We will take the time" to ensure the network won't be open to use by criminals and illicit activity like money laundering and financial fraud. "We hope that we'll avoid conflicts of interest. We...
NEW YORK (AP) — The CES gadget show is cracking down on its dress code, introducing more sessions focused on women and minorities and creating a new "sex tech" category after a debacle over a robotic personal massager for women.
The Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that organizes the annual gadget show in Las Vegas, unveiled policy changes Tuesday aimed at addressing complaints that the 52-year-old electronics show is too male-dominated.
The show faced backlash this year after organizers rescinded an innovation award for the massager by the startup company Lora DiCarlo. CES said it reserved the right to rescind awards for devices deemed "immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA's image." But Lora DiCarlo criticized the decision as sexist, noting that a sex doll for men was launched at CES just a year earlier. CES later apologized and reinstated the award.
The show was also criticized in 2017 for announcing an all-male lineup of keynote speakers for the second year in a row (two women were added later). That ratio has improved; in 2019 four of the nine keynote speakers were women.
CES reflects the gender diversity problems in the tech industry as a whole. Women and people of color are underrepresented in the tech industry, especially in leadership and technical roles . For example, less than a third of Google's employees are women and less than a quarter of its tech employees, such as engineers, are female. The numbers are similar at other big tech companies. Though the companies are throwing a lot of money and effort at improving diversity, the numbers are barely budging.
To further promote diversity, CES is introducing a new "Innovation for All" programming track featuring sessions with senior diversity officials. It's offering grants and free exhibit space to women and...
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on congressional hearings on the reach of big tech (all times local):
Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, sought to pin down Facebook on the subject of "monopoly" during a hearing on the power of Big Tech. Facebook argues it is not a monopoly because it has many competitors.
Neguse ran Matt Perault, Facebook's head of global policy development, through several of the world's largest social-media services, measured by active users.
Four out of the six — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp — are owned by Facebook, Neguse noted, suggesting that might qualify as a monopoly or "monopoly power."
Citing a historical Facebook document, Neguse also pointed out that Facebook once prohibited its developers from replicating Facebook's "core functionality." That policy, Neguse added, is now gone, because it would be seen as anti-competitive.
Perault said Facebook has reevaluated its policies over time.
The chairman of a House antitrust panel investigating the tech industry repeatedly reminded an Amazon executive he was under oath as he grilled him over the company's business practices.
Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline asked at a Tuesday hearing whether Amazon is using the data it collects about popular products to direct consumers to Amazon's own products.
Nate Sutton, an associate general counsel at Amazon, says the company doesn't use "individual data to directly compete" with third-party sellers.
But that answer met with skepticism from Cicilline, who twice reminded Sutton that he was under oath.
"You're a trillion-dollar company with online data in real time," Cicilline said.
Representatives from Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are testifying at the hearing as the House Judiciary's antitrust...
Facebook's currency plan gets hostile reception in Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Facebook executive is defending the social network giant's ambitious plan to create a digital currency and is pledging to work with regulators to achieve a system that protects the privacy of users' data. David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, faced aggressive questioning Tuesday from skeptical senators. Marcus told them, "We know we need to take the time to get this right."
Boeing jet trouble leads to cuts at Europe's busiest airline
LONDON (AP) — Europe's biggest airline by passengers, budget carrier Ryanair, will cut flights and close some of its bases beginning this winter because of the delay to deliveries of the Boeing 737 Max plane, which has been grounded globally after two fatal crashes. The airline warned Tuesday its growth in European summer traffic for 2020 will be lower than expected because of the slowed deliveries.
6 minutes: Man haunted by family's final moments on 737 Max
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who lost his wife, mother-in-law and three young children in the crash of a 737 Max says Boeing should scrap the plane and top executives should resign and face criminal charges. Paul Njoroge, who is due to testify before Congress on Wednesday, says that 737 Max planes should have been grounded after a crash off the coast of Indonesia in October. Instead, they kept flying until another crashed five months later near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, claiming the lives of his family and 152 others.
Retail rivals crash Amazon's Prime Day party
NEW YORK (AP) — The gravitational pull of Amazon Prime Day is so strong on shoppers it's benefiting other retailers as well, according to an early analysis from a key data group. On Monday, the first day of its...