NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are modestly higher in midday trading on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 on track to close out its third winning week in the last four.
Communications companies are leading the way following a huge earnings beat from Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Twitter also jumped after reporting a strong quarter, but online retail giant Amazon slipped after reporting a rare earnings miss as the company ramps up spending on faster deliveries.
Companies are nearly midway through earnings season, and reports have generally been better than the dismal expectations that analysts had coming into it.
A government report on Friday also showed that U.S. economic growth slowed in the spring, down to an annual pace of 2.1% from 3.1% in the first three months of the year, but it was still stronger than economists expected.
US economy slowed to 2.1% growth rate in second quarter
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy slowed sharply in the second quarter even as consumers stepped up their spending.
The Commerce Department says the gross domestic product grew at a 2.1% annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from a 3.1% gain in the first quarter.
But consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of economic activity, accelerated to growth at a sizzling 4.3% rate after a lackluster 1.1% annual gain in the first quarter. This spending strength was offset by a widening of the trade deficit and slower business inventory rebuilding, which together pared GDP by 1.5 percentage points.
Economists worry that an economic slowdown could last for the rest of the year as the economy reflects weakness from overseas and a confidence-shaking trade battle between the United States and China.
US economy grew more slowly in 2018 than previously thought
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says the U.S. economy grew more slowly in 2018 than it previously estimated, downgrading its estimate from 3% to 2.5%. President Donald Trump had frequently boasted of the 3% growth figure as evidence that his policies invigorated the economy.
The Commerce Department lowered its estimate of growth from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018 mainly because businesses spent less on buildings, equipment and software than it had earlier thought.
The department made the change based on more comprehensive data as part of its annual revisions to gross domestic product, or GDP, the broadest measure of the nation’s output of goods and services. The revisions cover the five years from 2014 through 2018.
Justice Department OKs T-Mobile’s $26.5B Sprint deal
WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. regulators have approved T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion takeover of rival Sprint, despite fears of higher prices and job cuts, in a deal that would leave just three major cellphone companies in the country.
Friday’s approval from the Justice Department and five state attorneys general comes after Sprint and T-Mobile agreed to conditions that would set up satellite-TV provider Dish as a smaller rival to Verizon, AT&T and the combined T-Mobile-Sprint company. The Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said the conditions set up Dish “as a disruptive force in wireless.”
But attorneys general from other states and public-interest advocates say that Dish is hardly a replacement for Sprint as a stand-alone company and that the conditions fail to address the competitive harm the deal causes.
A federal judge still must sign off on the approval, as it includes conditions for the new company. The Federal Communications Commission is also expected to give the takeover its blessing.
Trump refuses to shield Apple’s Mac Pros from China tariffs
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Donald Trump is vowing to slap tariffs on Apple’s Mac Pros if the company shifts production of the computer from Texas to China.
The pledge made in a Friday tweet rebuffs Apple’s attempt to shield its products from taxes being imposed on goods made in China as part of Trump administration’s trade war with the world’s most populous country.
Apple recently sent a letter to the Trump administration warning that the U.S. economy and its ability to compete will hurt if its products are hit with the tariffs.
The Cupertino, California, company has been assembling its Mac Pros in Austin, Texas since 2013, but a report surfaced last month that Apple plans to shift production to a factory near Shanghai.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
SoftBank sets up $108B investment fund, with no Saudi money
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese internet company SoftBank Group Corp. has set up a new fund for investing in technologies such as artificial intelligence.
Tokyo-based SoftBank said Friday its $108 billion Vision Fund 2 includes $38 billion from SoftBank. The rest is from Apple, FoxConn Technology Group, Microsoft Corp., Japanese banks and other companies.
SoftBank’s earlier Vision Fund 1, now totaling $70 billion, came under scrutiny after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Much of the funding for that investment entity came from Saudi Arabia.
SoftBank has promised to diversify sources for its funding, and Vision Fund 2 does not include any Saudi money.
Group companies of Softbank include Yahoo Japan and various mobile telecommunications and solar energy businesses.
SoftBank said the contributions to Vision Fund 2 are expected to increase.
Twitter reports strong jump in user numbers
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter reported surprisingly strong second-quarter user numbers and revenue Friday, as it works to make the platform more user friendly and eliminate robotic and fake accounts on its platform.
On that front, the social media messaging service said instances of suspicious behavior and spam dropped by 18% during the second quarter.
But Twitter’s push to cut down on fake accounts costs money, and its adjusted profit fell 36% to about $37 million, or 5 cents per share.
Revenue surged 18 percent, to $841 million, far better than the $829 million that Wall Street was looking for, according to a survey by FactSet. In April, Twitter had forecast revenue of $770 million to $830 million for the quarter. The revenue surge was due to higher advertising revenue.
Twitter’s daily user base rose 14% to 139 million, an increase of 5 million users. Analysts were expecting 134.7 million daily users.
McDonald’s sales growth impresses in 2Q
CHICAGO (AP) — McDonald’s newly modernized stores and growth in delivery helped the world’s largest hamburger chain serve up the biggest increase in global sales at established locations during the second quarter in seven years.
The Chicago-based chain reported a 6.5 % gain in sales at locations opened at least 13 months. It marked the biggest gain since the first quarter of 2012 when it posted a 7.3 % increase. It was also its 16th consecutive bump in comparable-store sales globally.
In the U.S., second quarter comparable sales increased 5.7%. That gain reflected the successful national and local deal offerings including the two for $5 Mix and Match incentive, newly remodeled stores and strength in its core menu items like Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, the company said.
McDonald’s has been investing in a number of initiatives to help it stay on top of the highly competitive fast-food market. Last week, it announced it was adding DoorDash as a new delivery partner, ending an exclusive agreement with UberEats.
EU official warns on UK divorce bill
LONDON (AP) — The European Union’s budget commissioner is warning that a failure by Britain to pay its divorce bill as it leaves the bloc would threaten the country’s credit status.
Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, took office this week, vowing to take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31 with or without a deal. He has threatened to withhold a payment of 39 billion pounds ($49 billion) as part of a Brexit divorce bill that predecessor Theresa May agreed to if there is no deal. Opponents say the money covers commitments the U.K. made while a member of the bloc, and must be paid in any event.
EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger was quoted Friday as telling the German daily Tagesspiegel that if those comments were translated into action, “then this would threaten the credit standing of the United Kingdom.”
^CENTRAL BANK GOLD
Gold deal expires as sales by European central bank dwindle
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank says it and 21 national central banks in Europe are letting a formal agreement regulating gold sales expire, saying the deal that once sought to stabilize the market for the precious metal is no longer needed.
The ECB said Friday that the fourth Central Bank Gold Agreement would not be renewed when it expires Sept. 26.
The first such agreement was signed in 1999 amid concerns about the impact of uncoordinated sales by central banks from the gold reserves mostly concentrated in rich European and North American countries as a legacy of the days of the gold standard. Central banks agreed to coordinate transactions to prevent excessive price swings.
The ECB said that member banks have not sold significant amounts of gold for nearly a decade.
EU investment bank aims to stop funding fossil fuel projects
LONDON (AP) — The European Investment Bank is proposing ending loans for fossil fuel projects next year in line with the EU’s efforts to curb climate change.
The EIB, owned by the EU’s 28 members, published a draft policy document Friday that includes a proposal to “phase out support to energy projects reliant on fossil fuels.”
The plan, which will be put to EIB governors in September, envisages ending loans to “oil and gas production, infrastructure primarily dedicated to natural gas, power generation or heat based on fossil fuels” by the end of 2020.
Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, now at the London School of Economics, said shifting the EIB’s investments toward clean energy would likely make “excellent returns while fostering real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.”
^DUKE ENERGY-COAL ASH
NC, VA meetings to detail Duke Energy coal ash settlement
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Meetings scheduled for next month will explain an agreement between government officials and Duke Energy wrapping up the restoration obligations the country’s largest electricity company faces for a massive spill of burned coal residues five years ago.
Federal, North Carolina and Virginia agencies announced Friday two public information sessions to answer questions on Aug. 6 in Danville, Virginia, and Aug. 7 in Eden, North Carolina.
The leak of waste Duke Energy stored after burning coal for power coated about 70 miles (110 kilometers) from a power plant on the Dan River, on the border of the two states.
Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said the company won’t disclose how much it has spent on restoration, which includes buying more than 500 acres to be incorporated into parks by both states.
Runway damage feared at Orlando Airport from fuel spill
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Orlando International Airport officials are closely monitoring their largest runway for signs of permanent damage from a massive fuel spill.
The runway was doused in flammable liquid from a Norwegian Air plane as it landed and taxied toward the terminal on June 29.
The Orlando Sentinel reports the affected area is the size of nearly nine football fields. Airport officials say they expect some of the runway’s asphalt will need replacing, which will be costly. They expect to bill the companies involved.
The flight from Orlando to London was being conducted by a leased jet from Hi-Fly of Portugal. The plane developed hydraulic trouble over the Atlantic and returned to Orlando. Neither Norwegian nor Hi-Fly has offered officials a reason the fuel was spilled.