Update on the latest in business:


Stocks post gains on trade talk hopes

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks rose in midday trading on Wall Street after the U.S. and China made goodwill gestures ahead of talks about their trade dispute expected to take place next month.

Technology companies, which are particularly impacted by the trade war, led the gains. PayPal rose 3.3%.


Consumer-focused stocks also showed solid gains. Hasbro rose 2.8%.

Energy was the only declining sector following a drop in oil prices.


CEOs speak out on gun violence, want Congressional action

UNDATED (AP) _ The CEOs of more than 100 companies are stepping into the nation’s gun debate, imploring Congress to expand background checks and enact a strong “red flag” law.

In a letter sent to the Senate today, CEOs from businesses including Airbnb, Twitter and Uber asked Congress to pass a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and a strong red flag law that would allow courts to issue life-saving extreme risk protection orders.

The CEOs’ letter comes after shootings at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, as well as those in West Texas and Dayton, Ohio.


Publix: Only officers should openly carry guns in its stores

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — If you’re carrying a gun, Publix Supermarkets doesn’t want to see it.

The chain is joining a growing number of retailers in asking customers not to openly carry firearms in its stores, even if state laws allow it.

The company announced the move by email saying that Publix respectfully requests that only law enforcement officials openly carry firearms in their stores.

The chain based in Lakeland, Florida, has 1,226 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Survivors of last year’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have criticized the company for donating to a Florida gubernatorial candidate aligned with the National Rifle Association.

Publix’s new gun policy comes a week after the competing Kroger grocery chain joined Walmart, Target, and other companies in asking customers not to openly carry weapons in their stores.


US consumer prices up slight 0.1% in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices slowed in August, rising by a slight 0.1%, reflecting a big drop in the cost of gasoline and other energy products.

The Labor Department says the tiny increase in its consumer price index followed a much bigger 0.3% rise in July which had been driven by a jump in energy prices. With energy costs falling in August for a third month out of the past four, the overall price increase slowed leaving consumer prices rising a modest 1.7% over the past year.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.3% last month and 2.4% over the past year.

The Federal Reserve has worried that inflation has been rising too slowly, citing that issue as one of the reasons it cut interest rates in July.


US long-term mortgage rates rise, with 30-year at 3.56%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose this week but remained at historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.56 percent from 3.49 percent last week. Average rates on the benchmark loan have remained below 3.6 percent for four straight weeks — the first time that’s happened since the fourth quarter of 2016.

A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 4.6 percent.

The average rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans rose to 3.09% from 3% last week.


Protesters cause part of Houston Ship Channel to close

HOUSTON (AP) _ A portion of the Houston Ship Channel has closed after Greenpeace USA activists protesting the use of fossil fuels suspended themselves from a bridge ahead of a Democratic presidential debate in nearby Houston.

The Coast Guard said that the closure came after the protesters on the Fred Hartman Bridge near Baytown were spotted.

The Port of Houston says the 52-mile shipping channel is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.


Facebook expands new tool aiming to shrink ‘news deserts’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook is trying to coax “news deserts” into bloom with the expansion of a tool that provides people with local news and information, but says it still has a lot to learn.

The social media giant says it is expanding its “Today In” news service to 6,000 cities and towns across the U.S., up from 400 previously. Launched in early 2018, the service shows people local news and information, including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements.

The tool lives within the Facebook app, where users can turn it on if they want to see local updates in their regular news feed. Facebook says in areas with a dearth of local news, it supplements the feed with articles from surrounding areas.


European Central Bank deploys new stimulus to help economy

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank has delivered a new blast of monetary stimulus to help the shaky economy in the face of uncertainties like the U.S.-China trade conflict and Brexit.

The decision comes as central banks around the world, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, are lowering rates to support slowing trade and growth.

In a wide-ranging package of measures the bank cut one key interest rate further below zero. It trimmed the rate on deposits it takes from banks to minus 0.5% from minus 0.4%, a penalty that pushes banks to lend their excess cash.

The ECB also said it would restart its bond-buying stimulus program, which pumps newly created money into the financial system to lower borrowing costs and help the economy. It will buy $22 billion a month in government and corporate bonds for as long as needed.


Bitter road to Brexit hits condiment producer’s bottom line

LOUGHBOROUGH, England (AP) — Britain hasn’t left the European Union yet, but the long, drawn-out and bitter road to Brexit is already causing financial problems for companies such as B I Europe Limited, a family-run food company in central England.

The company has been stockpiling ingredients for the sauces, dips and condiments it makes as a wholesale supplier to hotels and restaurants so it can stay in production. If Britain withdraws from the EU without new trading arrangements in place, the company could lose its own suppliers in EU countries.


EU extends sanctions linked to interference in Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is extending sanctions against scores of Russian and Crimean officials as well as companies and groups accused of undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

The EU says that asset freezes and travel bans against 170 people and 44 “entities”, including militias and banks, will be extended for six months until March 15, 2020.

The EU says some measures could be lifted if Russia were to respect the 2015 Ukraine peace agreement. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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