Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Aug 06, 2015 5:57 PM

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Media stocks slammed as pay TV bundle starts unravelling

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Signs that pay TV's pricy bundles of channels are starting to unravel are starting to take a toll on major media companies.

Media stocks were hammered for a second day Thursday as Viacom's underwhelming earnings gave investors another reason to sell, after industry bellwether Disney earlier in the week trimmed a profit outlook due to more people cutting the cord on pay-TV packages.

While there have long been signs consumers love online video distributors like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, it's the first time that signs of trouble for the traditional cable and satellite TV business have sent such a powerful shudder through the stock market.

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Poll shows few in US have received credit cards with chips

Even as an Oct. 1 deadline approaches to replace Americans' out-of-date credit cards with new cards embedded with computer chips, the vast majority of Americans still have not received their new cards and only a small minority are using the chips at all, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

The poll finds that roughly one in 10 Americans have received the new chip-enabled credit cards. Of those who have received the cards, only one-third say they've actually used the cards as intended in new specialized credit card readers.

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Russia steamrolls Western cheese, fruit to enforce ban

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government steamrolled tons of contraband cheese and destroyed fruit with tractors Thursday in a public display of its commitment to its one-year-old ban on Western foods.

The move, however, has raised protests in Russia, with people signing a petition urging the government to instead donate the food to the poor suffering through the country's vicious recession.

Coupled with the ruble's sharp depreciation, the ban on Western food has helped drive consumer prices up, pushing an increasing number of Russians below the poverty line.

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Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 270,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slightly more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but their numbers remain near historic lows in a sign that the job market is healthy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for jobless aid rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 270,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 6,500 to 268,250. That average has fallen nearly 10 percent over the past year, close to levels last seen in 2000.

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Average US rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.91 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell for a third straight week amid anxiety over developments in the U.S. economy that lifted bond prices.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 3.91 percent this week from 3.98 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 3.13 percent from 3.17 percent.

Mortgage rates followed the yield on the key 10-year Treasury note, which fell. Bond yields for Treasurys were pushed lower by the increase in bond prices, as investors sought safety in U.S. Treasury bonds.

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Fannie Mae posts $4.6B profit in 2Q; paying $4.4B dividend

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported net income of $4.6 billion from April through June, up from $3.7 billion a year earlier. Rising interest rates enabled Fannie to post gains on the investments it uses to hedge against swings in rates.

The second-quarter results released Thursday marked the 14th straight profitable quarter for the government-controlled company.

Washington-based Fannie said it will pay a dividend of $4.4 billion to the U.S. Treasury next month. With that payment, Fannie will have paid a total $142.5 billion in dividends.

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SeaWorld attendance keeps falling, but shares inch higher

SeaWorld says its theme park attendance is still falling as animal activists protest the company's treatment of whales, but the company says some of its parks are doing better as it prepares to launch a pair of new roller coasters.

The company also maintained its annual outlook, and its shares rose more than 4 percent.

SeaWorld has been trying to recover from the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish" that suggested its treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. Park attendance dropped after the release of the documentary and the company's stock has fallen 50 percent over the last two years.

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Oreo-maker latest 'Big Food' company targeted for shake-up

NEW YORK (AP) — The maker of Oreo cookies may again be the target for a shake-up as "Big Food" companies scramble to transform amid changing tastes.

Activist investor Bill Ackman's Pershing Square said it took a 7.5 percent stake in snack maker Mondelez International Inc. that was worth about $5.5 billion. The disclosure comes as Mondelez, which also makes Ritz crackers, Cadbury chocolates and Trident gum, had already been slashing costs to offset weak growth.

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Senate report urges government crackdown on airline fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government should crack down on airline fees for things like seat reservations, checked baggage and ticket changes or cancellations, which are often unfair or hidden from consumers, according to a Senate report released Thursday.

The report, which is based on an investigation by the Democratic staff of the Senate commerce committee, says there appears to be no connection between the price of checked bag fees and the costs incurred by the airlines that impose them.

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Liquor producers log on to get into the social media spirit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Want your martini shaken not stirred? How about streamed to your mobile device?

Looking for more dynamic ways to communicate with customers — particularly millennials — spirits producers are increasingly tapping into the virtual world to cross the digital divide between their message and your mouth. Think less big ad campaigns aimed at hundreds of thousands of consumers, more guy walks into a bar and engages with a hundred or so people with a live streamed cocktail seminar.

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Women tweet ilooklikeanengineer, among week's tech chatter

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of female engineers, coders, self-described science nerds and other tech superstars joined a Twitter campaign this week to break down stereotypes about what engineers should look like.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 75,000 people used the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer to post photos of themselves and promote gender diversity in technology, according to analytics firm Topsy. The campaign started when Isis Anchalee, an engineer at tech startup OneLogin, got an avalanche of attention after her photo appeared in a recruitment ad for her company.

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Hotel trade group blasts proposed sale of Orbitz to Expedia

NEW YORK (AP) — The hotel industry is objecting to the acquisition of Orbitz by one-time rival Expedia, saying that it would lead to higher prices for vacationers and larger fees for hotel owners.

Expedia early this year said it would buy Orbitz for $1.3 billion. It had hoped to complete the acquisition in the second half of this year, but the proposed buyout is still under review by the Justice Department.

The hotel trade group said Thursday that the deal would "severely reduce consumer choice." It also noted that Expedia charges hotels, on average, 11 percent higher commissions than Orbitz.

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Bank of England indicates interest rate hikes still far off

LONDON (AP) — The Bank of England appears to be still far from raising interest rates, after its policymakers showed more unanimity than expected Thursday in keeping the key borrowing rate at a record low.

Amid concerns over low inflation and slowing growth in Asia, the Bank of England's policymakers voted 8-1 to leave the rate at 0.5 percent for a 78th consecutive month and opted not to pump more money into the economy.

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Alternative-energy funds are better at absorbing oil's spill

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as the tumble in oil prices pummels the industry, one small -- and perhaps surprising -- group of energy stock funds has held up better than its peers: those investing in solar, wind and other alternative-energy sources.

It's an unexpected bright spot because alternative-energy stocks have long been known as some of the riskiest in an area that's already prone to big swings. The group has historically shown flashes of promise, only to plummet in disappointment. Alternative-energy stocks also have oftentimes struggled when the price of oil was falling. The S&P Global Clean Energy index plunged 66 percent in 2008, more than the broad stock market or the price of oil.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 120.72, or 0.7 percent, to 17,419.75, the sixth day in a row the Dow has finished with a loss. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 16.28 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,083.56. The Nasdaq composite shed 83.50, or 1.6 percent, to 5,056.44.

U.S. crude fell 49 cents to close at $44.66 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 7 cents to close at $49.52 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.3 cents to close at $1.648 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.1 cents to close at $1.550 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.5 cents to close at $2.813 per 1,000 cubic feet.