Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks moved higher in midday trading on Wall Street, putting the market on track to end this holiday-shortened week with a slight gain. The S&P 500 index was up 1%, led by banks and technology stocks. Big companies will be reporting quarterly earnings next week, starting with the major banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Analysts expect another strong quarter for Wall Street, due to the improving economy and fewer Americans defaulting on loans compared with earlier in the pandemic. Oil prices continued to march higher, with crude oil briefly touching $75 a barrel overnight.

FEDERAL RESERVE-MONETARY REPORT

Federal Reserve pledges ‘powerful support’ for economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says its low interest rate policies are providing “powerful support” for the economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. In its twice-a-year report to Congress on monetary policy released Friday, the Fed indicated that it planned to keep up that support until further progress is made in recovering from last year’s severe recession. It said that over the first half of this year, progress on vaccinations had helped the economy to re-open and produced strong economic growth but it said the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic were continuing to weigh on the economy with employment remaining well below pre-pandemic levels.

BIDEN-ECONOMY-COMPETITION

Biden set to sign competition order targeting big business

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to sign an executive order the White House bills as an effort to target anticompetitive practices in tech, health care and other parts of the economy while boosting workers’ wages and consumer protections. The sweeping order being signed Friday includes 72 actions and recommendations the White House says “will lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth.” The order includes calls for banning or limiting noncompete agreements to help boost wages and for allowing rule changes that would pave the way for hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drugstores, among other things.

BIDEN-PUTIN

Biden tells Putin Russia must crack down on cybercriminals

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday phone call that he must “take action” against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the U.S. reserves the right to “defend its people and its critical infrastructure.” The conversation came less than a month after the two leaders met in Geneva, where Biden warned against continuing cyberattacks on U.S. businesses and infrastructure emanating from Russia. A new ransomware attack linked to the REvil hacking group based in Russia caused widespread disruption last weekend.

CONGRESS-INFRASTRUCTURE

Schumer wants Senate votes soon on Biden’s domestic agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants his chamber to vote on budget and infrastructure legislation before lawmakers break for an August recess. In a letter Friday to his colleagues, the New York Democrat is warning that he may curtail the summer break to allow more time to work on President Joe Biden’s agenda. Schumer says the Senate may also vote again on Democratic legislation liberalizing voting procedures that Republicans blocked last month. And he says Democrats are ready to fill any potential Supreme Court vacancies. That’s a clear reference to the possibility that liberal-leaning Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 82, might retire.

STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS

Loan relief approved for more for-profit college students

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Education Department has announced it will forgive student loans for more than 1,800 borrowers who attended for-profit colleges that made false recruiting claims. The Biden administration is erasing more than $55 million in debt for former students of Westwood College, the Marinello Schools of Beauty and the Court Reporting Institute. All three have been closed for years. It marks continued progress in the Education Department’s effort to clear a backlog of claims in the borrower defense program, which offers loan forgiveness to defrauded students. Applications piled up under the Trump administration, leaving a current backlog of more than 100,000 claims.

IMF-FINANCES

IMF approves $650 billion expansion to fight pandemic

WASHINGTON (AP) — The executive board of the International Monetary Fund approved a $650 billion expansion in resources to support economically vulnerable nations as they battle the coronavirus pandemic. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Friday that the new support, the largest such expansion in the history of the organization, would be a “shot in the arm for the world.” It is a reversal of the position taken by the Trump administration that began in February when the Biden administration got behind the effort. Republican members of Congress have objected to the funding, saying that the expanded IMF resources would benefit U.S. adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN-TRAVEL

Travel firms sue UK government over its travel restrictions

LONDON (AP) — A group of British airports and airlines is taking the U.K. government to court, demanding it disclose the evidence behind its coronavirus travel restrictions. Manchester Airports Group, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, on Friday brought the case along with airlines Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet, travel business Tui and British Airways’ parent company, IAG. The travel businesses say the government’s “traffic light” system of classifying countries as low, medium or high risk, is not transparent. The government says forcing it to disclose all the evidence “would lead to a serious risk of delay in a decision-making process.” Two High Court judges said Friday that they will give their ruling at a later date.

GENERAL MOTORS-PICKUP RECALL

GM recall: Side air bags can explode in Chevy, GMC pickups

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is recalling more than 400,000 pickup trucks in the U.S. because the side air bags can explode without warning and spew parts into the cabin. The recall covers certain 2015 and 2016 Chevrolet and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks. Documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators say the air bag inflator can rupture or the end cap can fly off on both sides of the trucks. GM says it has no reports of injuries. The company says a manufacturing defect allowed moisture into the inflator during manufacturing, causing corrosion. Dealers will replace both side air bag modules. GM says it has a limited number of replacement parts available. Owners will be notified starting Aug. 16. They’ll get a second letter when parts are widely available.

FDA-ALZHEIMER DRUG

FDA head calls for probe into Alzheimer’s drug review

WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration is calling for a government investigation into highly unusual contacts between her agency’s drug reviewers and the maker of a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug. The announcement Friday is the latest fallout over last month’s approval of the drug Aduhelm. The drug is an expensive and unproven therapy that the agency OK’d against the advice of its own outside experts. Dr. Janet Woodcock made the request to the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, the watchdog agency that oversees the FDA and other federal health agencies.

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