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Stocks post gains...VW exec to plead guilty in emissions scandal...Are you in the 'mode' for tacos?

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have returned to their winning ways today, with the S&P 500 headed toward a record, after corporate profits continued to come in better than analysts expected. McDonald's and Caterpillar were among the big companies reporting healthier-than-forecast earnings. Higher prices for oil, metals and other commodities helped to lift energy and raw-materials companies. But tech stocks took a rare step backward after results for Seagate Technology and others in the industry fell short of expectations.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers gained confidence this month, with more Americans pleased by current conditions and more hopeful about the future. The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index in July rose to 121.1, up from a revised reading of 117.3 in June. Consumers' views on current conditions hit the highest level since July 2001, while expectations for the future rebounded after a slight dip in June.

DETROIT (AP) — A court spokesman in Detroit says a German Volkswagen executive plans to plead guilty in the company's U.S. emissions scandal. Spokesman David Ashenfelter says lawyers informed a judge today. Oliver Schmidt will appear in federal court on Aug. 4. Schmidt is one of many VW employees charged in the U.S. in a scheme to cheat emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles. He's been in custody since January when he was arrested in Miami while on vacation.

NEW YORK (AP) — An activist investor has bought a "meaningful" stake in Barnes & Noble Inc. and is urging the bookseller to sell itself. Sandell Asset Management Corp. CEO Thomas E. Sandell says in a letter to Barnes & Noble's board that "the public market for retail stocks is contributing to a risky and inhospitable environment" and the company would be better served if it were private or part of a larger company. He did not disclose the amount of Sandell's stake.

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Taco Bell is testing a new service that allows users of the ride-sharing app Lyft to add a Taco Bell stop to their ride with the click of a button. Taco Bell says Lyft users who select "Taco Mode" will get a custom menu, a taco-themed car and a free taco when they make their "ride-thru" stop at a nearby Taco Bell. Taco Mode will first be tested in Orange County, California during the next two weekends. It'll rollout nationwide in 2018.

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