Update on the latest business

^FINANCIAL MARKETS

Industrial stocks lead US indexes lower

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

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Technology stocks bucked the downward trend and put up some solid gains. Qualcomm rose 1.4% following reports that the government asked a court to pause enforcement of an antitrust ruling.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.07%.

^HOME CONSTRUCTION

US home construction slips 0.9% to 1.25 million in June

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.

^CONGRESS-BOEING PLANE

Man who lost daughter questions FAA inspections

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man whose daughter was killed when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crashed in March called on legislators to end the Federal Aviation Administration’s use of aircraft manufacturer employees to conduct safety inspections.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya died in the crash, told a subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation Committee that the FAA should return to a system where the inspectors are paid by the FAA but report jointly to the agency and the company.

With that structure “the safety culture could put a stop to things if something looked wrong,” he said.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the highest-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said the process to “unground” the Max will not resemble the process under which the plane was originally approved.

^CONGRESS-BIG TECH

Facebook won’t commit to starting small on Libra

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook is moving forward on an ambitious plan for a new digital currency and won’t commit to U.S. lawmakers’ requests that it start small.

Facebook executive David Marcus, who’s leading the Libra currency project, tried to dodge a question Wednesday during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

Marcus was asked by New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney if Facebook would commit to doing a small pilot program first to address numerous concerns from U.S. officials, both Democrats and Republicans.

Marcus says Facebook will launch the project responsibly and make sure there’s “appropriate oversight.”

Maloney says if Facebook can’t commit to a pilot test, “Congress should seriously consider stopping this project from moving forward.”

Wednesday’s House hearing follows a testy Senate banking hearing Tuesday on Facebook’s currency proposal.

^KOHL’S-HIRING

Kohl’s kicks off hiring for back-to-school, holiday seasons

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 of early hiring positions 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.

^EUROPE-AMAZON

EU probes Amazon over use of retailer info to gain edge

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is opening an antitrust probe into U.S. online shopping giant Amazon to see whether it uses data from independent retailers to gain an edge in the market.

EU antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday 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.”

The EU opened a preliminary probe into the issue last year, and Vestager said Wednesday that 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 a competitive edge. Vestager said: “We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior.”

^WORLD EMOJI DAY

Apple, Google continue inclusive push with new emojis

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple and Google are rolling out dozens of new emojis that of course include cute critters, but the tech giants also continue to push the boundaries of inclusion and 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.

Apple said its new emojis will be available in the fall with a free software update for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch.

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