Business Highlights

The Associated Press

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China's economic slowdown painful despite stimulus

BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ From shopkeepers to shipbuilders, some sectors are feeling more pain from China's deepest slowdown since the 2008 global crisis than still-robust headline growth of about 8 percent might suggest. Higher spending by state industry and government-directed investment is pumping up the world's second-largest economy, but that masks the fact that the private sector is cutting jobs and scrambling to prop up plunging sales.

Data due out Friday are expected to show growth in the three months ending in June fell as low as 7.3 percent, down from the previous quarter's nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent. That is in line with this year's official 7.5 percent target. But revenues for companies in construction, shipbuilding and export manufacturing are down by up to half compared with a year ago.

The slowdown is a setback for economies around the world that were looking to China to drive demand for exports and support global growth.

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Fewer auto closings reduce US unemployment claims

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits plunged last week. But a big reason is that automakers have skipped some of their usual summer shutdowns to keep up with demand, causing fewer temporary auto layoffs.

Economists expect the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid to go back up in coming weeks.

The auto industry's recovery has helped support the struggling U.S. economy. U.S. auto sales in the first half of the year jumped 15 percent over the same period a year ago. Sales of new vehicles surged in June. Automakers also began Independence Day promotions early, lifting sales at the end of the month.

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Yahoo's interim CEO faces off with shareholders

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Yahoo's restless shareholders let interim CEO Ross Levinsohn know that they won't give him much time to fix the troubled company if he gets the job on a permanent basis.

Levinsohn faced skeptical questioning at Yahoo's annual shareholders meeting Thursday as he tried to convince investors that the embattled Internet company will rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil.

The foibles have depressed Yahoo stock as the company struggled to find a leader who could come up with a strategy to reverse a decline exacerbated by the success of Internet search champ Google Inc. and social networking leader Facebook Inc.

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FDA plans database for identifying foodborne germs

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Food and Drug Administration plans to create a database of 100,000 foodborne germs in an effort to speed up the government's response to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli and other food-related diseases.

The five-year effort aims to sequence the genetic code of the most common foodborne germs. With that information, FDA says scientists may be able to create tests that can identify foodborne germs in a matter of days, rather than weeks. Every year about 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne bacteria.

The agency will partner with scientists at the University of California-Davis, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Agilent Technologies Inc., a company which specializes in testing equipment.

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US government records $904.2 billion deficit through June

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. budget deficit grew by nearly $60 billion in June, remaining on track to exceed $1 trillion for the fourth straight year.

Through the first nine months of the budget year, the federal deficit totaled $904.2 billion, the Treasury Department reported Thursday.

President Barack Obama is almost certain to face re-election having run trillion-dollar-plus deficits in each his first four years in office. That would likely benefit his probably GOP opponent, Mitt Romney.

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More US homes facing foreclosure risk in June

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Banks are increasingly placing homes with unpaid mortgages on a countdown that could deliver a swell of new foreclosed properties onto the market by early next year, potentially weighing further on home values.

June provided the latest evidence of the trend, as the number of U.S. homes entering the foreclosure process for the first time increased on an annual basis for the second month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

California in particular saw a big spike in foreclosure starts, or homes placed on the foreclosure path for the first time. The increase was 18 percent from June last year, the firm said.

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US 30-year mortgage rate drops to record 3.56 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell again to record lows, giving would-be buyers more incentive to brave the housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 3.56 percent. That's down from 3.62 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, dipped to 2.86 percent, below last week's previous record of 2.89 percent.

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Data firm: Global spending on drugs slows to 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Growth in global spending on medications will slow markedly over the next four years due to a slew of new low-cost generic drugs coming to pharmacies in the U.S. and other developed countries, along with slower increases in what those countries spend on brand-name drugs, according to a new forecast.

That's good news for patients and the employers, labor unions and taxpayer-funded government health programs that help pay for drugs.

During the same period, from 2012 through 2016, the pharmaceutical industry will sharply boost its sales in emerging markets including China, India and Russia, according to the report from data firm IMS Health, which collects and analyzes data on pharmaceutical sales around the world.

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Price hike still haunts Netflix stock 1 year later

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Netflix is more popular among couch potatoes than investors a year after its polarizing decision to raise U.S. prices for video subscription services.

The unexpected twist that Netflix unveiled a year ago Thursday triggered mass customer cancellations and a sell-off in its stock, which has wiped out more than $11 billion in shareholder wealth.

Netflix Inc. has bounced back this year to revive its subscriber growth. But even after a recent rally, its stock remains more than 70 percent below its peak price of nearly $305 per share about a year ago, largely because of concerns about what Netflix has been spending to attract and retain subscribers. The stock gained $3.33, or 4.1 percent, to close Thursday at $84.97.

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Nordstrom to launch Topshop in 14 stores

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Upscale Nordstrom Inc. has teamed up with Arcadia Group to launch shops under the British company's Topshop and Topman brands in 14 of its 117 full-scale department store locations.

With this deal, Nordstrom will become the largest U.S. retailer to sell a broad assortment of the U.K. brands' fashions in its stores and online. Topshop offers women's clothing, while Topman is the menswear counterpart.

The partnership comes at a time when Nordstrom, which has enjoyed strong sales since the recession, is looking for new ways to get shoppers in its store more frequently. Meanwhile, Arcadia aims to raise its profile of its Topshop and Topman in the U.S. among young customers.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed with a loss of 31.26 points, or 0.3 percent, at 12,573.27.

The S&P 500 fell 6.69 points, or 0.5 percent, at 1,334.76. The Nasdaq composite index fell 21.79, or 0.8 percent, to 2,866.19.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 27 cents to end at $86.08 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, added 84 cents to finish at $101.07 per barrel in London.

In other futures trading, heating oil rose 1.15 cents to finish at $2.7733 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline added 3.73 cents to finish at $2.8062 per gallon. The price of natural gas rose 2.1 cents to finish at $2.8740 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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