Business Highlights

The Associated Press


Fed says US economy has slowed, takes no new steps

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy is losing strength and repeated a pledge to take further steps to boost growth if hiring remains weak.

The Fed took no new action after a two-day policy meeting. But it acknowledged in a statement released after the meeting that economic activity had slowed over the first half of the year, with job creation remaining sluggish and consumer spending tapering off.


The Fed reiterated its plan to hold short-term interest rates, now near zero, at very low levels until at least late 2014.

Glitch causes big swings in some stocks

A technical glitch at a major processor of stock trades caused wild swings in a number of stocks.

Some stocks moved dramatically shortly after the opening of trading on Wednesday. Wizzard Software, which closed Tuesday night at $3.50, shot above $14 in the first minutes of trading, according to data compiled by FactSet.

The glitch occurred at Knight Capital, one of the largest processors of stock trades. The company said in a statement that a "technology issue" had occurred in its market-making unit related to the routing of shares of about 150 stocks to the New York Stock Exchange.


Americans re-embrace Japanese cars, lifting sales

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Just when Detroit seemed to be luring them away, Americans are embracing Japanese cars again.

Toyota and Honda lost ground last year after the Japanese earthquake limited their supplies. But July's U.S. sales show they've nearly regained what they lost, at the expense of GM and Ford.

GM sales fell 6 percent and Ford sales were down 4 percent compared with last July. Honda's sales were up 45 percent and Toyota jumped 26 percent. Overall car and truck sales rose 9 percent to 1.15 million, according to Autodata Corp.


Comcast: Olympics far exceeding expectations

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Television viewers are so excited about the Olympics that NBC's corporate owners said Wednesday they now expect to break even on the London games after once predicting they'd take a $200 million loss.

Through five days of events, ratings are some 30 percent higher than what NBC had privately predicted, said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That means NBC can sell more commercial time than anticipated and charge higher prices for them.

Despite social media complaints about NBC's policy of filling its prime-time with events taped earlier in the day, it hasn't dissuaded television viewers. There are even indications that it may have helped: 38.7 million people tuned in Tuesday night, when Americans could have easily learned by dinnertime that the country's women's gymnastics team won a gold medal that day and swimmer Michael Phelps set a record for career medals earned. On Monday, when the men's gymnastics team finished without medals, 31.6 million people watched.


Impact of corn prices on food? Not what you think

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Cornflakes won't necessarily be more expensive as a result of rising corn prices, but the milk you pour over them might be.

A drought covering two-thirds of the country has damaged much of the country's corn crops and pushed grain prices to record levels, triggering fears that a spike in food prices will soon follow.

You're more likely to see higher prices for milk and meat than corn on the cob. That's because the sweet corn that shoppers buy at a grocery store is grown differently and not as vulnerable to drought conditions. As for the corn that's used as grain feed for cows, however, farmers are paying more as the drought persists.


US manufacturing sector shrank for second month

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. manufacturing shrank for the second straight month in July, further evidence of an economy growing at a sluggish pace.

Job growth has slumped and U.S. consumers and businesses have cut back on spending, lowering demand for factory goods. Europe's economic woes and slower growth in China, India and Brazil have reduced demand for American exports.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity ticked up to 49.8, from 49.7 in June.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction. June was the first time the survey showed manufacturing contracted in three years.


US construction spending rose 0.4 percent in June

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Another strong gain in homebuilding pushed U.S. construction spending up for a third straight month in June.

The construction industry has been flashing signs of improvement while other sectors of the economy have slowed. Builders are gaining confidence, partly because they are seeing more interest from potential buyers. Builders started construction on the most new homes and apartments in four years in June.

Construction spending rose 0.4 percent in June following an upwardly revised 1.6 percent gain in May that was the biggest one-month increase since December, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.


Private survey: US economy added 163,000 jobs in July

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A private survey shows U.S. businesses kept hiring at a modest pace in July, suggesting the job market could be improving after three sluggish months.

Payroll provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 163,000 jobs last month. That's slightly below a revised total of 172,000 jobs it reported for June.

The report only covers hiring in the private sector and excludes government job growth. The Labor Department will offer a more complete picture of July hiring on Friday.


Jobless ranks rose in 90 percent of US cities in June

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Unemployment rates rose in nearly 90 percent of large U.S. cities in June, partly because many young people graduated from school with no firm job prospects.

Many of the cities with significant increases in their rates have large universities, where students have begun searching for jobs in recent months. Unlike the national figures, the metro unemployment data isn't seasonally adjusted for such changes.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in 332 large metro areas. They fell in 29 and were unchanged in 11. That's worse than in May, when rates rose in 255 cities.


Burger King 2Q profit rises, focuses on overseas

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The home of the Whopper is on a mission: bring more food options to customers and expand overseas. Burger King's plan appears to be working so far, with the chain's net income surging 60 percent in the second quarter.

As the fast-food market becomes increasingly crowded at home, Burger King â¿¿ like other companies â¿¿ has concentrated on growing abroad. In the past year, 80 percent of new store openings have been in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

During the second quarter it worked out joint ventures with Russia and China. The Russian joint venture will see several hundred restaurants open there over the next few years, while the China deal will bring 1,000 restaurants to the country over the next five to seven years. Burger King says this is the biggest multi-unit development agreement in its history.


Stronger dollar, weak sales weigh on Avon 2Q

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Avon Products said Wednesday its second-quarter net income fell 70 percent, hurt by the stronger dollar and lower demand globally for its makeup and skin care products.

The maker of beauty products including Skin So Soft lotion and mark cosmetics also said it has begun talks with federal investigators to possibly settle a long-running probe into allegations of bribery overseas.

The results announced Wednesday showed yet another lackluster performance for the direct-selling company, which has struggled for three years to turn around results. The slump led to the ouster of longtime CEO Andrea Jung and the hiring of Sheri McCoy, a former Johnson & Johnson executive, in April.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average shed 32.55 points to 12,976.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell four points to 1,375.32. And the Nasdaq composite index lost 19.31 points to 2,920.21.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose by 85 cents to end the day at $88.91 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, added $1.04 to finish at $105.96 per barrel in London.

In other futures trading, heating oil rose 1.08 cents to finish at $2.8588 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline rose by 6 cents to finish at $2.8342 per gallon. Natural gas fell by 3.8 cents to finish at $3.1710 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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

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