Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Wall Street climbs, led by tech

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising in midday trading on Wall Street, led by technology stocks. Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices jumped nearly 14% for one of the market’s biggest gains after it reported stronger profit growth for the spring than Wall Street expected and raised its sales forecast for the year.

Starbucks gained after it reported a loss for the spring that wasn’t as bad as analysts were expecting. It also gave a forecast for the current quarter that envisions a profit, though it gave a wide range with the lower and upper ends bracketing analysts’ expectations. L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, soared more than 30% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it laid out plans to slash its annual costs by $400 million, including through laying off workers. The stock had been struggling for years before turning higher in the spring, and analysts say the cost cuts should help bolster the company’s profitability.

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Eastman Kodak’s stock was on track to more than triple for the second straight day after the company won a $765 million government loan to launch a new business unit making pharmaceutical components. It surged 369.8% to $37.30, up from $2.62 on Monday.

PENDING HOME SALES

More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in June

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — The number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose for the second straight month as the housing market appears to be recovering from a devastating spring freeze because of the coronavirus outbreak. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of pending sales rose 16.6% to 116.1 in June. That’s up from a reading of 99.6 in May. Contract signings are now 6.3% ahead of where they were last year after being significantly behind last year’s pace due to the pandemic. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ENERGY DECLINE

US energy use hit 30-year low during pandemic shutdowns

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. energy consumption plummeted to its lowest level in more than 30 years this spring as the economy largely shut down due to the coronavirus. The decline reported Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration was driven by less demand for coal to produce electricity and oil that’s refined into gasoline and jet fuel. Overall energy consumption dropped 14 percent during April. That’s the lowest monthly level since 1989 and the largest decrease that’s been recorded by the energy administration in records dating to 1973. Natural gas bucked the trend and increased 15 percent during the April lockdown as residential consumption increased amid stay-at-home orders.

BOEING-EARNINGS

Troubles abound, Boeing losses bloom to $2.4 billion in 2Q

CHICAGO (AP) — Boeing is reporting a loss of $2.4 billion for the second quarter, and it will slow production and cut more jobs as the airplane market gets battered by the coronavirus outbreak. Boeing says it now expects the airline industry will take longer to recover from the pandemic.

For Boeing, the pandemic is compounding problems that began with its 737 Max airliner, which remains grounded after two crashes killed 346 people. Chicago-based Boeing is being held together by its defense and space business, which depends on contracts with governments and has been largely insulated from the pandemic.

GENERAL MOTORS-EARNINGS

Plant closings send GM to 2Q loss, but signs of improvement

DETROIT (AP) — Even though General Motors was able to reopen its U.S. factories for the last half of the second quarter, the company still lost $806 million in the three months between April and June. The Detroit automaker had to close its plants from March 18 to May 18 due to the coronavirus, and production didn’t resume fast enough to stem the losses.

Like other automakers, GM counts revenue when vehicles are shipped from factories, so it had little money coming in for about seven weeks in April and May.

EARNS-ANTHEM

Insurer Anthem’s 2Q profit swells, helped by drop in claims

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthem’s second-quarter profit doubled to nearly $2.3 billion, as a pandemic-induced drop in claims and a new business pushed the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer’s earnings past expectations. But the nation’s second-largest insurer left its 2020 earnings forecast unchanged, following a pattern established by its competitors. Insurers haven’t touched their guidance despite big quarterly earnings growth because they aren’t sure what lies ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the economy in the second quarter, which meant fewer surgery bills or big claims. But companies expect at least some of those postponed procedures to take place later this year.

NORFOLK SOUTHERN RESULTS

Norfolk Southern profit falls 46% as virus slows shipments

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Norfolk Southern Corp.’s second-quarter profit fell 46% as the railroad hauled 26% less freight because of the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the economy.

The railroad said Wednesday it earned $392 million, or $1.53 per share, during the quarter. That’s down from $722 million, or $2.70 per share, a year ago. The results beat Wall Street expectations. The seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research expected earnings per share of $1.39.

The railroad handled significantly less freight as most automotive plants were shut down for much of the quarter and other manufacturers produced less as officials imposed restrictions in response to the virus.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Trump dismisses virus aid for cities, lashes out at GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is dismissing Democratic demands to include aid for cash-strapped cities in a new coronavirus relief package. Trump is also lashing out at Republicans, saying they “should go back to school” if they reject money for a FBI headquarters in the nation’s capital. About $1.7 billion for that building is included in the GOP bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since said he opposes the project as unrelated to virus relief. Trump wants to keep the building, which sits across the street from his Trump International Hotel. The hotel could face competition if the FBI moves and another hotel is developed on the site.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DRUG

European Commission signs deal for virus drug

UNDATED (AP) — The European Commission says it signed a 63 million euro ($72 million) deal to secure thousands of doses of remdesavir (rehm-DEHZ-ih-veer), the only licensed experimental drug to treat people with severe COVID-19. It says it bought enough remdesivir, sold by Gilead Sciences as Veklury, to treat about 30,000 patients with serious coronavirus illness for member countries and the United Kingdom.

This month, the U.S. announced it had signed a deal with Gilead to buy nearly all of the company’s production of the drug through September. Numerous public health experts slammed the agreement, calling the U.S. move selfish and warned other countries could lose out.

OLIGARCH ART SCHEME-SANCTIONS

Report: Oligarchs skirt US sanctions through shady art sales

NEW YORK (AP) — A new congressional report says Russian oligarchs are skirting U.S. sanctions through shady high-end art deals. The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations recommended new legislation Wednesday that would rein in an unregulated industry that has become a common front for money laundering. Investigators traced $18 million in art buys to shell companies linked to close friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin who were sanctioned after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said he supports legislation to lift the “curtain of secrecy” that has made the art industry a preferred vehicle of money launderers.

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