Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move higher for a second day

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher on Wall Street for a second day, continuing to recover following a sharp drop at the beginning of the week. The S&P 500 index was up 0.7% at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8% and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.6%. Despite Monday’s steep drop, all three indexes are now positive for the week. Dow component Coca-Cola was up 2% after the company raised its full-year forecast and reported better-than-expected results. Fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill jumped 11% after the company also reported better-than-expected results after the closing bell yesterday.

CONGRESS-DEBT LIMIT

Dems hit McConnell, who says GOP won’t back debt limit boost

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are accusing Republicans of a cynical ploy that would damage the government’s credit rating and the economy. Their criticisms came after the chamber’s GOP leader said his party would vote against an impending effort to raise the federal debt limit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had said he believes all Republicans will vote against renewing Washington’s ability to borrow money. The government, which has been running huge budget deficits for years, needs to borrow cash constantly to pay its debts, but its legal authority to do that expires July 31. An expiration of the government’s borrowing authority could lead to a federal default.

CONGRESS-INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure bill expected to fail first test vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are poised to reject an effort to begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal that senators brokered with President Joe Biden. But supporters are hoping they’ll get another chance at the measure in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the procedural vote Wednesday is meant to be a first step to ”get the ball rolling” as talks progress. But Republican senators say they need to see the final bill and want the vote delayed until Monday. Negotiators have been meeting around the clock this week to try and reach a final agreement.

GERMANY-GAS PIPELINE

US, Germany seal deal on contentious Russian gas pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior State Department official says the U.S. and Germany have reached a deal that will allow the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of further U.S. sanctions. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the two governments would soon announce details of the pact that is intended to address U.S. and eastern and central European concerns about the impact of the Nord Stream 2 project. There is strong bipartisan opposition to the pipeline in Congress.

STELLANTIS-CHIP SHORTAGE

Stellantis CEO expects chip shortage to drag into next year

DETROIT (AP) — The leader of the world’s fourth-largest automaker expects a global computer chip shortage that has cut vehicle production to last into next year. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares says the shortage will easily drag into 2022. He doesn’t see enough signs that chip makers in Asia are increasing semiconductor production that will come to the west. The shortage has forced most automakers to halt production at times, creating shortages and driving up prices because demand remains high. As a result, the average cost of a new vehicle in the U.S. hit a record of over $42,000 in June, according to Kelley Blue Book.

USED CARS-FALLING PRICES

A small victory: Used-car prices slip from dizzy heights

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — For months, anyone who wandered onto a dealer lot to look for a used car could be forgiven for doing a double take — and then wandering right off the lot. Prices had rocketed more than 40% since before the coronavirus pandemic began — to an average of nearly $25,000. But now, a sliver of hope has emerged. The seemingly endless streak of skyrocketing used vehicle prices appears to be coming to a close. Not that anyone should expect bargains. Though average prices for cars, trucks and SUVs are gradually declining, they’ll likely remain near record levels.

UNITED STATES-CHINA

No. 2 US diplomat Sherman to visit China as tensions soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to China on a visit that comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing soar. Sherman will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office. The State Department said Wednesday that Sherman will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and others in Tianjin on Sunday as part of her Asia trip, which also takes her to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. The department says the discussions are part of efforts to hold “candid exchanges” with Chinese officials. This week the U.S. accused China of hacking and indicted four Chinese nationals on charges they tried to steal U.S. trade secrets.

BIDEN-CYBERSECURITY

Biden to meet next month with private sector on cyber issues

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official says President Joe Biden plans to meet next month with business executives about cybersecurity. The August 25 meeting will also involve members of the administration’s national security team. It comes as the White House is scrambling to help companies protect against ransomware attacks from Russia-based criminal syndicates and as the administration also confronts an aggressive cybersecurity threat from the Chinese government. A National Security Council spokesperson disclosed the meeting, but did not identify the business leaders who would be participating. The meeting will focus on how to “work together to collectively improve the nation’s cybersecurity.”

SAUDI ARAMCO-CYBER EXTORTION

Saudi Aramco facing $50M cyber extortion over leaked data

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant says leaked data from the company that apparently is being used in a $50 million cyber-extortion attempt likely came from one of its contractors. The Saudi Arabian Oil Co., better known as Saudi Aramco, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it “recently became aware of the indirect release of a limited amount of company data.” It didn’t say which contractor found itself affected nor whether that contractor had been hacked or if the information leaked out another way. A page on the darknet claimed the extortionist held a 1 terabyte of Saudi Aramco data for ransom.

US-TWITTER-HACK

UK man arrested in Spain, charged in US with Twitter hack

WASHINGTON (AP) — A British man has been charged in the United States in connection with a Twitter hack last summer that compromised the accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls. The Justice Department says 22-year-old Joseph O’Connor was arrested in Estepona, Spain, on an arrest warrant accusing him of involvement in a July 2020 hack of more than 130 accounts. A criminal complaint filed in federal court in the Northern District of California charges O’Connor with crimes including cyberstalking, making extortive and threatening communications and intentionally accessing a computer without authorization. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

EBAY-EMPLOYEES-CYBERSTALKING

Couple in eBay harassment case sues company, ex-officials

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts couple subjected to threats and other bizarre harassment from former eBay Inc. employees have filed a civil lawsuit against the Silicon Valley giant. David and Ina Steiner say in their lawsuit filed Wednesday in Boston federal court that the company engaged in a conspiracy to “intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them” in order to “stifle their reporting on eBay.” The Natick residents say they were subjected to cyberstalking, death threats, bizarre deliveries, and in-person surveillance from company workers for their coverage of eBay in their online newsletter. Spokespersons for eBay didn’t comment Wednesday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SOUTH AFRICA-VACCINE PRODUCTION

South African firm to make Pfizer vaccine, first in Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Pfizer says a South African firm will begin producing the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement Wednesday is important because it will be the first time that the vaccine will be produced in Africa. The Biovac Institute based in Cape Town will manufacture the vaccine for distribution across Africa. Biovac will receive large batch ingredients for the vaccine from Europe and will blend the components, put them in vials and package them for distribution. The production will begin in 2022 with a goal of reaching more than 100 million finished doses annually. Biovac’s production of doses will be distributed among the 54 countries of Africa. South Africa is relying upon the Pfizer vaccine in its mass inoculation drive.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON-RESULTS

Strong Q2 from J&J as pandemic-hit sales, profit recover

UNDATED (AP) — Johnson & Johnson’s second-quarter profit soared 73%, thanks to strong sales growth, particularly in its medical device and diagnostics segment, as hospitals and the health care industry as a whole continue recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The health care giant also got a boost from favorable currency exchange rates and hiked its sales and profit forecasts sharply for the year. The world’s biggest maker of health care products on Wednesday reported net income of $6.28 billion, or $2.35 per share, in the quarter. That easily topped Wall Street projections. Revenue totaled $23.31 billion, up 27.1%, but vaccine sales were tiny.

EARNS-ANTHEM

Medicaid growth helps insurer Anthem beat Q2 expectations

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthem topped second-quarter expectations even though the health insurer’s profit tumbled as patients who hunkered down last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic started seeking care again. Growing enrollment in government-funded programs like Medicaid and Medicare Advantage helped Anthem balance the jump in care use. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer also booked more revenue from its IngenioRx business, which runs pharmacy benefits. Anthem also said Wednesday that it was raising its forecast for 2021. The insurer now expects earnings to be greater than $25.50 per share, which also tops the average expectation on Wall Street.

COCA-COLA-RESULTS

Coke sales surge in Q2 as re-openings gain momentum

UNDATED (AP) — Coca-Cola’s sales are rebounding faster than expected as the impact of the pandemic abates. The Atlanta-based soft drink giant said its revenue jumped 42% to $10.1 billion in the April-June period. That was well ahead of Wall Street’s forecast and slightly better than the same period in 2019. Coke Chairman and CEO James Quincey said the recovery remains uneven, but as vaccination rates increase, consumers are returning to their pre-pandemic routines. Coke saw growth in fountain demand as restaurants, stadiums, movie theaters and other venues reopened. The company raised its earnings forecast for the year based on the results.

FORD-LYFT PARTNERSHIP

Ford, Argo AI to deploy autonomous vehicles on Lyft network

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. and a self-driving vehicle company it partly owns will join with the Lyft ride-hailing service to offer autonomous rides on the Lyft network. The service using Ford vehicles and a driving system developed by Argo AI will begin in Miami later this year and start in Austin, Texas, in 2022. The companies say it will begin with human backup drivers and go fully autonomous on an unspecified date. The companies say the vehicles will gather data to lay the groundwork to deploy 1,000 Ford robotaxis on the Lyft network in multiple markets in the next five years.

CONSUMERS-RIGHT TO REPAIR

Agency eyes ‘right-to-repair’ rules to aid consumers, shops

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers would be freer to repair their broken cellphones, computers, videogame consoles and even tractors themselves or to use independent repair shops under changes eyed by federal regulators that target manufacturers’ restrictions. The regulators say repair restrictions often fall most heavily on minority and low-income consumers. Responding to a new competition directive from the Biden White House, the Federal Trade Commission is moving toward writing new rules aimed at helping small repair businesses and saving consumers money on repair costs. Unavailable parts, instruction manuals, design restrictions and locks on software have made many consumer products harder to fix.

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