Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2016 5:40 PM

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How do the blind watch the Olympics? NBC helps them hear it

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two people deep inside a Connecticut office park are helping millions of blind Americans enjoy the Olympics like never before.

For the first time in the U.S., NBC is airing the Olympics in prime time with additional narrators who simply report what's happening on screen — a sort of closed captioning for the visually impaired. Most viewers won't even know the additional narrators are there; to hear them, you need to turn on special cable-box or TV settings to activate their audio track. But their running blow-by-blow can open things up for the blind, who at best get an incomplete picture from traditional sportscasting.

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US stocks get modest lift from Federal Reserve comments

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks closed barely higher Wednesday as big gains for utilities balanced out losses for retailers like Lowe's, Target and Staples.

Stocks fell in morning trading as a recent slump in phone company and utility stocks continued. But the indexes reversed directions after noon as those stocks turned higher, as did banks and household goods makers. Investors scrutinized the minutes from the Federal Reserve's late July meeting and found no suggestion the central bank's in any hurry to raise interest rates.

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Fed minutes: Conditions could 'soon warrant' a rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials believed last month that near-term risks to the U.S. economy had subsided and that an interest rate increase could soon be warranted. But they did not indicate when they would likely raise rates.

The minutes of their July 26-27 meeting show that officials were encouraged by a rebound in job growth. They also took note of a stabilization of financial markets after a bout of turbulence triggered by Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union. But a key factor holding the Fed officials back was the stubbornly slow rate of inflation.

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Jury finds investment banker guilty of insider trading

NEW YORK (AP) — An investment banker was convicted of insider trading charges Wednesday after a jury concluded he gave tips about mergers and acquisitions to his father, enabling over $1 million in illegal profits.

Sean Stewart, 35, testified during the two-week federal court trial, insisting he had no idea his father was sharing secrets with a broker to make trades ahead of public announcements on five separate deals that he oversaw while working at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Perella Weinberg partners LP. Sentencing was set for Feb. 17 for the Manhattan resident.

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Target cuts outlook as it sees fewer customers in stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Target Corp. cut its profit forecast and a key sales outlook Wednesday as it saw fewer customers in its stores and acknowledged it didn't push the second part of its "Expect More, Pay Less" slogan.

The Minneapolis-based discounter's second-quarter net income fell nearly 10 percent, though that was better than what most had expected. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.1 percent, reversing seven straight quarters of gains. Its main competitor, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reports results Thursday.

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Lowe's cashes in on housing rally, just not as much as rival

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The nation's biggest home improvement stores may sell many of the same goods, but the benefits of a sustained U.S. housing recovery seems to be streaming mostly toward one of them.

Lowe's reported disappointing sales growth at existing stores, its second-quarter profit was short of most expectations and the company cut its profit expectations for the year.

The quarter looked even more lackluster because it came one day after U.S. data revealed a housing sector in full rebound mode and a quarterly earnings report from Home Depot, which posted record second-quarter sales and profits. The contrast sent shares of Lowe's tumbling.

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In June, airlines improved on-time performance from 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Airlines were running on time more often in June than they did last summer and travelers seemed to be finding less to complain about.

But that was before computer outages this month at Delta and last month at Southwest led to more than 4,000 flight cancelations, widespread delays and travel nightmares.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that 78 percent of flights on major U.S. airlines arrived on time in June, up from 74.8 percent in June 2015. Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines had the best on-time ratings. American Airlines had the worst.

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Cisco laying off 5,500 employees, or 7 percent of workforce

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Cisco Systems says it will lay off 5,500 employees as the internet gear maker scrambles to adapt to technology changes that have reduced demand for its main products.

The shake-up announced Wednesday means about 7 percent of Cisco's roughly 74,000 workers will lose their jobs beginning this summer.

The purge is the latest example of the upheaval that has rocked some of the world's oldest and biggest technology companies as the relentless march of innovation forces them to head in new directions in search of revenue growth.

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AT&T hikes prices for some plans, but raises data caps

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T is joining Verizon in raising the prices of some of its data plans.

As with Verizon, AT&T is going to great lengths to avoid calling the changes a price hike, as the higher prices come with more data, reducing the cost per gigabyte for many customers. Indeed many customers will benefit, and those who won't can keep their existing plans.

The price increase underscores how wireless companies see data as a way to boost revenue. Most plans now come with unlimited calls and texts. The new rates take effect Sunday.

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Railroads show little progress on key safety technology

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many commuter and freight railroads have made little progress installing safety technology designed to prevent deadly collisions and derailments despite a mandate from Congress, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The technology, called positive train control or PTC, uses digital radio communications, GPS and signals alongside tracks to monitor train positions. It can automatically stop or slow trains to prevent them from disobeying signals, derailing due to excessive speed, colliding with another train or entering track that is off-limits.

The Federal Railroad Administration report shows that while some railroads have made substantial progress, others have yet to equip a single locomotive or track segment with the technology, or install a single radio tower.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 21.92 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,573.94. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 4.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,182.22. The Nasdaq composite inched up 1.55 points to 5,228.66.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 21 cents to $46.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, inched up 62 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $49.85 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.45 a gallon and heating oil rose 3 cents to $1.49 a gallon. Natural gas held steady a $2.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.