Update on the latest in business:


Stocks struggle despite Big Tech surge

NEW YORK (AP) — Big Tech continues to steamroll through the pandemic, but much of the rest of Wall Street is struggling in afternoon trading, leaving stock indexes mostly lower. The S&P 500 was down 0.4% after flipping from small gains to losses in the first hour of trading.

Stocks that most need the economy to reopen had the sharpest losses, such as in the travel industry. Energy stocks were also particularly weak. The market’s losses would have been even steeper if not for continued gains for Amazon, Apple and Facebook, which reported much stronger results for the spring than Wall Street expected.

Caution was clearly present across markets as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cloud the economy’s prospects, along with gridlock in Congress that’s holding up more aid for it. The 10-year Treasury yield remains close to its lowest level since it dropped to a record low in March. Gold also continued its record-setting run as investors searched for safety, while 87% of the stocks in the S&P 500 were weaker.


US consumer spending up 5.6%, but virus could stall gains

WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers increased their spending in June by a solid 5.6%, helping regain some of record plunge that occurred after the coronavirus struck hard in March and paralyzed the economy. But the virus’ resurgence in much of the country could impede further gains. Last month’s rise in consumer spending followed a seasonally adjusted 8.5% surge in May after spending had plunged the previous two months when the pandemic shuttered businesses, caused tens of millions of layoffs and sent the economy into a recession.


Wages and benefits grow at slowest pace in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wages and benefits for U.S. workers rose at the slowest pace in three years in the April-June quarter, a sign that businesses are holding back on pay as well as cutting jobs in the coronavirus recession. Pay and benefits increased 0.5% in the second quarter, according to the government’s Employment Cost Index. That is down from 0.8% in the first three months of the year. Wages and salaries rose just 0.4%, while benefits jumped 0.8%. The ECI tracks pay and benefits for existing jobs, so it isn’t affected by layoffs or shifts in the types of jobs that exist in the economy.

A separate measure of personal income compiled by the Commerce Department found that overall U.S. income fell by 1.1% in June, following a steeper drop of 4.4% in May.


Spirit Airlines warns of layoffs, ExpressJet’s fate in doubt

UNDATED (AP) — Spirit Airlines has warned up to 30% of its employees that they will lose their jobs in October, and regional carrier ExpressJet’s future is in doubt after losing a key contract as the virus pandemic continues to hammer the airline industry.

Spirit is the latest airline to deliver layoff warnings to employees, which are required by federal law 60 days before large-scale job cuts. The budget airline based in Miramar, Florida, said it told unions that about 20% to 30% of its pilots, flight attendants and other groups will be furloughed in October.

Earlier in July, United Airlines issued layoff warnings for 36,000 employees, and it warned pilots this week of possible additional job losses this year and next year. American Airlines notified 25,000 workers that they could be furloughed in October, when billions in federal money to help cover payroll costs expires.


White House signals support for $600 jobless benefit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House appears keen to endorse a temporary extension of a $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit as the popular boost to both the economy and family budgets is about to expire. The idea is a prominent feature of top-level Washington talks on a major election-season COVID-19 response measure. After late-night talks failed to produce a breakthrough, the two sides took their case to the media Friday morning. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a short-term extension only makes sense if the two sides are close to a deal on a far more sweeping relief bill.


Fauci optimistic COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci has told lawmakers that once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time. Appearing before a House panel investigating the nation’s response to the pandemic, Fauci on Friday expressed “cautious” optimism a vaccine would be available, particularly by next year. Fauci’s message in recent days has been Americans can’t afford a devil-may-care attitude toward COVID-19 and need to double down on basic measures such as wearing masks, keeping their distance from others and avoiding crowds. Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir blames delays in coronavirus test results on overwhelming demand across the nation.


US sinks another $2.1 billion into a potential vaccine

LONDON (AP) — Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced they will supply 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the United States as drugmakers scramble to develop drugs to stem the pandemic. The United States will pay up to $2.1 billion “for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine,″ the companies said in a statement. Sanofi will get the bulk of the funds. The U.S. government has a further option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed program.


Merck ups outlook, turns profit during global vaccine hunt

FAIRLESS HILLS, PA (AP) — Surging sales of cancer medicines and reduced spending across the board helped Merck overcome a big hit from the coronavirus pandemic and pushed second quarter profits up by 12%. The drugmaker blew past Wall Street projections and boosted its financial forecast for the year Friday even as it spends heavily on the development of two experimental vaccines and a possible treatment for COVID-19.

Unlike many rivals developing vaccines that will require two doses, Merck is aiming for one-dose vaccines. The company bought Austrian vaccine maker Themis Biosciences this year to gain rights to its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. Human tests should begin this quarter.


Doctors try pressurized oxygen chambers in COVID fight

UNDATED (AP) — As researchers around the world search for ways to treat the growing number of people suffering from the coronavirus, medical researchers in New York are trying hyperbaric oxygen therapy, best known for treating divers with decompression sickness. But the researchers say the use of the hyperbaric treatment is met with skepticism by the wider medical community because fringe supporters have long touted it as a virtual cure-all without scientific evidence. The therapy is only approved for 13 types of treatment — from burns to deep wounds and carbon monoxide poisoning. Researchers as hoping to secure funding for a larger clinical trial.


Minnesota company gets most aid in Iowa hog disposal program

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — One influential pork company has received most of the money from an Iowa program designed to support farmers who euthanized their hogs after the coronavirus devastated their industry, according to newly released data. Christensen Farms, one of the nation’s largest family-owned pork producers, has received $1.86 million from the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program, or 72% of the $2.6 million the program has paid to date. The Sleepy Eye, Minnesota-based company received payments for disposing of 46,599 euthanized hogs, six times as many as the second highest claimant. The 15 other companies and farmers who received payments reported euthanizing about 18,000 hogs combined.

Iowa is the nation’s largest pork-producing state, and Christensen Farms has more than half of its operations in the state, including partnerships with nearly 200 farms.

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