Update on the latest in business:


Stocks rally

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is rallying on rising hopes that Washington might pierce through its paralyzing partisanship to offer more aid for the economy. The S&P 500 was up 1.7% in afternoon trading, though it’s still on pace to close out its first monthly loss since March. After setting a record high on Sept. 2, the benchmark index has been mostly tumbling on a wide range of worries in its sharpest setback since it began soaring in the spring.


Economy plunges 31.4% in spring but big rebound expected

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy plunged at a record rate in the spring but is poised to break a record for an increase in the just-ending July-September quarter. The Commerce Department reports that the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, fell at a rate of 31.4% in the April-June quarter. The government’s final look at the second quarter showed a decline that was almost four times larger than the previous record, a fall of 10% in the first quarter of 1958 when Dwight Eisenhower was president. But economists believe the economy will expand at an annual rate of 30% in the current quarter as businesses have re-opened and millions of people have gone back to work. That would shatter the old record for a quarterly GDP increase, a 16.7% surge in the first quarter of 1950 when Harry Truman was president.


More Americans sign contracts to buy homes in August

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in August, suggesting the hot U.S. housing market will continue well into fall. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of pending sales rose 8.8% to a record high of 132.8. An index of 100 represents the level of contract activity in 2001. It had sunk to a low of 69 in April, when buyers and sellers were sidelined as the coronavirus swept through the U.S. Contract signings are a barometer of finalized purchases over the next two months, so this month’s numbers point to continued strong sales into October.


Pelosi and Mnuchin plan last-ditch meeting on virus relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are making a last-ditch effort to seal a tentative accord on an additional round of COVID-19 relief. Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled House is moving on a separate track to overrun GOP opposition and pass a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 rescue bill as one of their final acts before leaving Washington to campaign. Mnuchin and Pelosi were scheduled to continue negotiations Wednesday in hopes of a deal. They are aiming for an agreement that would permit another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments, restore bonus pandemic jobless benefits, speed aid to schools and extend assistance to airlines, restaurants and other struggling businesses.


Cold weather means new challenges for struggling restaurants

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. restaurants are moving warily into fall, hoping their slow recovery persists despite the new challenge of chilly weather and a pandemic that’s expected to claim even more lives. New York opens indoor dining on Wednesday, restricting capacity to 25%. San Francisco may do the same as early as this week. Chicago is raising its indoor capacity from 25% to 40% on Thursday. The National Restaurant Association says nearly 100,000 U.S. restaurants have shut their doors since the pandemic began. Employment rose in the last four months, but there are still 2.5 million fewer restaurant workers than there were in February.


Parents take school year on the road

UNDATED (AP) — In RVs, rental homes and five-star resorts, families untethered by the constraints of physical classrooms for their kids have turned the new school year into an extended summer vacation. Some have been lured by the ailing hotel industry catering to parents with remote learners through “roadschooling” amenities. Travel consultants say the change of scene for desperate work- and school-from-home families boils down to risk versus reward. So-called “school from paradise” packages guarantee dedicated workspaces for children. In addition to private tutors and classroom settings, some are adding after-school activities, including sports training for student athletes.


FAA chief tests changes to Boeing’s grounded 737 Max

UNDATED (AP) — The head of the Federal Aviation Administration is sitting in the captain’s seat for a test flight of Boeing’s grounded 737 Max. FAA Adminstrator Stephen Dickson’s test flight took off Wednesday near Seattle. Dickson is a pilot who flew for the military and Delta Air Lines. The Max has been grounded since March 2019 after two deadly crashes. Meanwhile, in Washington a congressional committee approved legislation to change the way the FAA certifies new planes. The bill gives FAA approval over picking employees of companies including Boeing who perform safety analysis for the agency.


Ford recalls over 700K vehicles; backup cameras can go dark

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling more than 700,000 vehicles in North America because the backup cameras can show distorted images or suddenly go dark. The recall covers most 2020 versions of Ford’s F-Series trucks, as well as the 2020 Explorer, Mustang, Transit, Expedition, Escape, Ranger and Edge. Also included are the Lincoln Nautilus and Corsair. F-Series trucks are the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. The company says in documents posted Wednesday by the government that a poor electrical connection is causing the problem. Dealers will replace the rearview camera at no cost to owners. The recall is expected to start Nov. 7.


US says it will block palm oil from large Malaysian producer

UNDATED (AP) — The U.S. government says it will block palm oil shipments from one of Malaysia’s biggest producers, citing widespread labor abuses. An executive assistant commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Trade said Wednesday that the agency will detain shipments of palm oil and its products from FGV Holdings Berhad in Malaysia. The order will be effective immediately. An Associated Press investigation into the $65 billion palm oil industry found labor abuses among an invisible workforce consisting of millions of men, women and children from some of the poorest corners of Asia.


Secretive, never profitable Palantir makes its market debut

BOSTON (AP) — Seventeen years after it was born with the help of CIA seed money, Palantir Technologies is finally going public. The data-mining outfit long reliant on spies and soldiers has never been profitable and is dogged by ethical objections for assisting in the Trump administration’s deportation crackdown. The company is highly reliant on government contracts and analysts say it may sink or float on its ability to capture a significant chunk of corporate business. Another potential red flag is the conservative longtime Trump ally Peter Thiel, who with other co-founders will maintain voting control of the company as Wednesday’s offering is structured.


Anthem to pay nearly $40M settlement over 2015 cyberattack

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Health insurer Anthem has agreed to another multimillion-dollar settlement over a cyberattack on its technology that exposed the personal information of nearly 79 million people. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer said Wednesday that it will pay $39.5 million to settle an investigation by a group of state attorneys general. Anthem said it was the last open investigation into the 2015 attack. The company also agreed nearly two years ago with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay $16 million to settle possible privacy violations. Indianapolis-based Anthem provides health insurance coverage to more than 42 million people.

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