Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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Spring rebound for US economy sets stage for Fed rate hike

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy isn't moving at warp speed, but it looks like it will be strong enough to handle an expected interest rate increase later this year.

Fueled by solid consumer spending, Thursday's report on the gross domestic product underscored the steady growth that is likely to bolster the Federal Reserve's case that it will soon be time to make a move, perhaps in September.

The economy's total output of goods and services rebounded to a respectable annual rate of 2.3 percent in the April-June quarter, the best showing since last summer. Moreover, the first quarter managed to grow a slight 0.6 percent, reversing an earlier government estimate of a contraction.

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Fearful of being left out to dry, bond funds hold more cash

NEW YORK (AP) -- Imagine the bond market as a crowded swimming pool, except it's one where the water level drops whenever someone tries to leave. By the time you attempt to get out, you're stuck at the bottom, unable to exit because the ladder is 10 feet above your head.

Now you know what the bond market is worried about. Bond fund managers are increasingly talking about the market's "liquidity," or how easy it is to buy and sell bonds. Concerns are rising that the day is approaching when everyone will rush for the exits at once and drain the market's liquidity, perhaps after the Federal Reserve begins raising interest rates.

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Toyota robot can pick up after people, help the sick

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- Toyota's new robot that glides around like R2-D2 is devoted to a single task: picking things up.

HSR, short for "human support robot," comes with a single mechanical arm that can grasp objects of various shapes and sizes and also pick up smaller items with a tiny suction cup.

It doesn't have other tricks in its repertoire, except for a computer panel on its head for surfing the Internet. A person can also access the robot from another computer and use it like a camera-phone.

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US home rental prices rise again in June

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home rental prices climbed much faster than incomes in June. But there are signs of slowing momentum around major job hubs such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington.

Real estate data firm Zillow said Thursday that U.S. rental prices rose a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent in June from a year ago. Rental prices have been increasing at double the pace of wage growth, causing renters to allot more of their income to housing and limiting their ability to save to buy a home.

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Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 267,000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the increase was from a very low level and the figures still point to a healthy job market.

Applications for jobless aid rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure that is a better measure of underlying trends, dropped 3,750 to 274,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and two weeks ago they plummeted to the lowest level in almost 42 years. That suggests that Americans are enjoying a nearly unprecedented level of job security.

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High-end indoor cycling chain SoulCycle files to go public

NEW YORK (AP) -- SoulCycle, the high-end indoor cycling chain, is gearing up for Wall Street.

The New York company filed for an initial public offering Thursday, hoping to raise as much as $100 million. SoulCycle didn't say how many shares it plans to offer, or at what price, so that number may change.

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Russia's ruble extends its slide, reviving economic concerns

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian ruble is falling under the pressure of cheaper oil, reviving concerns over the country's economic outlook, particularly the perniciously high inflation rate.

The ruble was down 0.9 percent in Moscow trading on Thursday, at 59.2 rubles against the dollar.

The decline comes a day after the Russian central bank halted daily purchases of foreign currency in an attempt to stop a weeklong slide in the national currency. The ruble on Tuesday hit 60 rubles to the dollar, its lowest point in more than four months.

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Fiat Chrysler raises outlook as Q2 profit jumps 70 percent

MILAN (AP) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles raised its outlook Thursday after strong North American sales and a European recovery drove second-quarter earnings up 70 percent despite hefty U.S. recall costs.

The rosy results come after the carmaker reached agreement with safety regulators to pay millions of dollars in penalties for delays in nearly two-dozen recalls. Fiat Chrysler also agreed to take potentially defective Ram pickups and older Jeeps off the road under the deal.

CEO Sergio Marchionne downplayed the overall cost of the actions, saying that the pickup buyback wouldn't cost more than $20 million.

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Galaxy S6 fails to reverse profit decline at Samsung

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung Electronics suffered a fifth straight drop in quarterly earnings as the Galaxy S6 failed to reverse its declining fortunes in global smartphone sales.

The company's overall earnings drop during the April-June quarter was 8 percent but it reported a much bigger decline of 38 percent in the mobile division's income. The sharp profit drop in the mobile business came despite its ambitious start to the quarter with the launch of two flagship smartphones: the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge featuring a curved side display.

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Nokia profit grows as networks division leads turnaround

HELSINKI (AP) -- Nokia enjoyed a solid 60 percent rise in net profit in the second quarter, with a good performance in its core networks division suggesting the Finnish company is succeeding in turning its business around since selling its handsets operation to Microsoft in 2013.

The profit of 347 million euros ($383 million) beat expectations and Nokia's stock jumped more than 10 percent during the day but settled to close up more than 7 percent at 6.42 euros on the Helsinki Stock Exchange.

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Shell to cut jobs to cope with long period of cheap oil

LONDON (AP) -- Royal Dutch Shell announced deep cuts to jobs and investment on Thursday as the global energy giant prepares for a prolonged period of low oil prices.

Shell expects to eliminate 6,500 staff and contractor positions this year as it seeks to reduce operating costs by 10 percent, the Netherlands-based company said Thursday. The company also plans to reduce capital investment by $7 billion, or 20 percent.

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P&G's sales dip again on softer volume, exchange rates

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Procter & Gamble's sales fell for the sixth straight quarter as the world's bigger consumer goods company was weighed down by softer sales volume and unfavorable currency exchange rates.

The maker of products including Tide, Pampers and Charmin said higher prices helped offset a decline in shipment volume for its fiscal fourth quarter. That kept sales flat after stripping out the impact of currency exchange rates, acquisitions and divestitures.

Procter & Gamble, based in Cincinnati, has been trying to boost its results by cutting costs and shrinking its portfolio of products to concentrate on the 10 categories and about 65 brands where it says it is strongest.

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Prosecutors ask justices to review insider trading case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to reinstate securities fraud convictions against two hedge fund portfolio managers, saying a federal appeals court ruling in the financiers' favor makes it harder to prosecute insider trading.

The justices should reverse the December ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York and reinstate the convictions of Anthony Chiasson, of New York, and Todd Newman, of Massachusetts, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said in his Supreme Court filing.

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Facebook ready to test giant drone for Internet service

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- Facebook says it will begin test flights later this year for a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737, in the next stage of its campaign to deliver Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.

Engineers at the giant social network say they've built a drone with a 140-foot wingspan that weighs less than 1,000 pounds. Designed to fly at high altitudes for up to three months, it will use lasers to send Internet signals to stations on the ground.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 5.41 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,745.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed effectively unchanged, up 0.06 of a point to 2,108.63. The Nasdaq composite rose 17.05 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,128.78.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 7 cents to close at $53.31 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 0.6 cents to close at $1.828 a gallon. Heating oil closed unchanged at $1.598 a gallon. Natural gas fell 11.8 cents to close at $2.768 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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