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^FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks slightly higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are slightly higher in midday trading on Wall Street after a round of solid corporate earnings and a breakthrough in negotiations over Britain's exit from the European Union put investors in a buying mood.

Companies including Netflix, CSX and Morgan Stanley are rising after reporting surprisingly good profits. Industrial and health care companies are leading the broad gains. Communications stocks are also higher.

The technology sector is the weakest spot in the market. IBM fell 5.7% and dragged the sector lower after giving investors a weak third-quarter revenue report. Chipmaker Intel fell 1.5%.

Bank stocks made strong gains as bond yields rose. Morgan Stanley climbed 3.1% after reporting solid third-quarter profit and revenue. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.73% from 1.74% late Wednesday.

^HOME CONSTRUCTION

US home construction fell 9.4% last month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home building fell last month, driven by a sharp decline in the construction of new apartments.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that housing starts dropped 9.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.26 million. The construction of new apartments plunged 28.3% to an annual pace of 327,000.

On a brighter note, single-family home building ticked up 0.3% to an annual rate of 918,000. Single-family construction typically creates more jobs than apartment units.

September's drop comes after overall home building, fueled by lower mortgage rates, reached a 12-year high in August. Sales of existing homes rose to a 17-month high that month and sales of new homes jumped.

Building permits, a measure of future construction, slipped 2.7% in September to 1.39 million.

^INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION

GM strike pushed US factory output down 0.5% in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output slumped 0.5% in September, as a strike at General Motors caused a steep decline in auto production amid broader struggles for manufacturers.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that manufacturing production has fallen 0.9% over the past 12 months, a reflection of the disruptions and uncertainties caused by the U.S.-China trade war.

The G.M. strike led to a 4.2% decline last month in the making of autos. Excluding autos, factory output slipped a more modest 0.1% in September.

Total industrial production, which includes mining and utilities as well as manufacturing, slipped 0.4% in September.

Mining output fell 1.3% last month because of less crude oil being extracted and fewer wells being drilled. Production at utilities improved 1.4% as warm weather boosted demand for electricity.

^MORTGAGE RATES

US mortgage rates rise this week but remain low

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose this week after signs of a trade truce between the U.S. and China last week pushed up the interest rate on 10-year Treasurys.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.69% from 3.57% the previous week. That's down from 3.9% at the same time last year and by historic standards is very low.

Lower rates have helped reinvigorate the housing market, which stumbled last year. Sales of existing homes reached a 17-month high in August, and new home sales jumped 7% that month. Single-family home construction has also ticked up.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage moved up to 3.15% from 3.05% a week ago.

^CHINA-US-TRADE

China appeals to Washington for quick end to trade war

BEIJING (AP) — China's government has appealed to Washington to negotiate a quick end to their tariff war but gave no indication what additional steps Beijing might want to see before it carries out what President Donald Trump says is a promise to buy up to $50 billion of American farm goods.

A Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng, said Thursday achieving "phased results" would restore business confidence and help to stabilize the global economy.

Trump agreed Friday to delay a planned tariff hike and said Beijing would buy American exports. But the two sides have yet to put the deal on paper.

Gao gave no indication whether Beijing wanted additional negotiations or the lifting of punitive tariffs already in place before it starts purchases.

^GLOBAL FINANCE

IMF head says more needed to boost growth than US-China deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund's new leader says a trade truce between the United States and China could trim expected losses to the world economy but won't be enough to produce strong global growth.

Before last week's tentative trade agreement, the IMF had estimated that higher trade tariffs would mean eight-tenths of a percentage point of lost economic input by the end of next year. The IMF's managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, now says a new estimate that factors in the U.S.-China deal slightly reduces that lost input, to a still-significant 0.6%.

She says more must be done by the world's two biggest economies to resolve their disputes, and all countries must try to overhaul trade rules.

She says "our hope is to move from a trade truce to a trade peace."

^EUROPE-US TARIFFS

European specialty food makers brace for US tariffs

MILAN (AP) — European producers of premium specialty agricultural products like French wine, Italian Parmesan and Spanish olives are facing a U.S. tariff hike due Friday with a mix of trepidation and indignation at being dragged into a trade war they feel they have little to do with.

The tariffs on $7.5 billion on a range of European goods were approved by the World Trade Organization as compensation for illegal EU subsidies to plane maker Airbus.

The U.S. has some leeway in deciding what goods it puts tariffs on. So while it is taxing European aircraft goods an extra 10%, it is walloping agricultural products an extra 25%.

"It's a nightmare," says Aurélie Bertin, who runs the 700-year-old winery Chateau Sainte-Roseline in southern France. "We don't know what will be the result."

^BREXIT

Johnson sure UK lawmakers will pass Brexit deal

BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he's confident that Parliament on Saturday will adopt the Brexit deal he reached with the European Union.

Speaking minutes after the deal was adopted Thursday by European leaders, Johnson said it was time for Britain to complete its departure from the bloc and focus on a new partnership "with our EU friends."

Johnson's domestic rivals and even some crucial allies have said they won't back his Brexit deal. But the prime minister who made a career of criticizing the EU said he firmly believed that British lawmakers would agree to the deal once they had studied it.

The U.K. Parliament is meeting Saturday in London for the first time since 1982.

^GM STRIKE-AGREEMENT

GM contract: worker pay hikes, factory closings move forward

DETROIT (AP) — A tentative four year contract with striking General Motors gives workers a mix of pay raises, lump sum payments and an $11,000 signing bonus.

In return, the contract allows GM to proceed with factory closures in Lordstown, Ohio, Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

Details were posted Thursday on the union website as factory level union officials met to decide if they'll approve the deal.

No decision has been made.

Workers went on strike Sept. 16, crippling the company's U.S. production and costing it an estimated $2 billion.

^JOHNSON & JOHNSON-MESH SETTLEMENT

J&J agrees to $117M settlement over pelvic mesh devices

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson has agreed to a $117 million multistate settlement over allegations it deceptively marketed its pelvic mesh products, which support women's sagging pelvic organs.

Ohio's attorney general said an investigation found J&J, the world's biggest health products maker, violated state consumer protection laws by not fully disclosing the devices' risks.

Numerous women who had the once-popular, hammock-like devices implanted claim they caused severe pain, bleeding and infections.

The settlement, which covers 41 states and the District of Columbia, requires the company to fully disclose risks and stop making inaccurate safety claims.

It comes as J&J is swamped with thousands of lawsuits claiming patients were harmed by products including baby powder, opioid painkillers and prescription drugs.

J&J said that the settlement doesn't include admission of any misconduct.

^OPIOID CRISIS-LAWSUITS

Jury chosen for opioid trial, but talks continue

CLEVELAND (AP) — A jury has been chosen for the first federal trial on the opioid crisis even as the push for a settlement intensifies with drug executives heading to Cleveland for further talks.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Thursday that Judge Dan Polster had ordered executives for the companies that are defendants to appear in Cleveland on Friday for continued negotiations.

The person was not authorized to disclose information about ongoing negotiations and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday.

Three major drug distributors and two drug manufacturers have the outlines of a settlement to thousands of opioid-related lawsuits that could be worth $50 billion over time.

Most of those companies are defendants in the Cleveland trial on claims from Ohio's Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

^JUUL-VAPING FLAVORS

Juul halts sales of fruit, dessert flavors for e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Juul Labs will stop selling fruit and dessert flavors for its electronic cigarettes.

The voluntary step announced Thursday is the company's latest concession as it tries to weather a political backlash blaming its flavored-nicotine products for hooking a generation of teenagers.

The move is unlikely to satisfy the company's critics. Juul will continue selling its most popular flavors: mint and menthol. Those products account for more than 60% of Juul's retail sales, according to analysts. They are also the most popular flavors among teens.

The flavored pods affected by the announcement are mango, crème, fruit and cucumber.

Those flavors account for about 10% of the company's sales and were only available on its website. Juul pulled the flavors out of stores last November.

^SAGE GROUSE-ENERGY LEASES

Judge blocks Trump attempt to ease energy rules in US West

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration's attempt to ease some rules on mining, drilling and grazing across millions of acres in seven U.S. Western states.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill said changes adopted by the administration in March likely would cause further declines in populations of greater sage grouse.

The ground-dwelling bird is at the center of a bitter conflict between the administration and conservationists how much of the West's expansive public lands should be opened to development.

The judge's Wednesday restraining order means government officials must fall back on previous rules that were adopted under President Barack Obama.

It affects public land in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California and Oregon.

Grouse habitats in Montana, Washington and the Dakotas were not impacted by the Trump rule changes.

^SOUTHWEST AIRLINES-BOEING-PLANE

Southwest pushes back return of troubled Boeing Max, again

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines has again pushed back the return of its Boeing 737 Max jets as Boeing tries to fix the aircraft following two deadly crashes.

Southwest said Thursday that it will keep its Max out of its schedule until Feb. 8, about a month longer than previously planned.

The airline says it's monitoring information from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration about software improvements and pilot-training requirements that will be part of returning the plane to flight.

Without the planes, Southwest says it will cancel about 175 flights each weekday. Southwest had 34 MAX planes when they were grounded in March and had expected more to be delivered this year.

American and United have taken their Maxes out of the schedule until at least January.

^FEDEX HUB-MEMPHIS

FedEx files $212M building permit for world hub in Tennessee

(Information in the following story is from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com )

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — FedEx officials confirm the company has filed a building permit for its new package sorting facility and world hub in Tennessee.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports the $212 million permit filed Tuesday indicates the company could soon begin work on the Express World Hub at the Memphis International Airport, a major piece of an expansion project announced in 2018. The permit calls for a four-level building with offices, maintenance shops and a cafeteria.

FedEx officials announced in August the company would be investing an additional $450 million into the modernization project, for an expected total investment of more than $1 billion.

The newspaper reports Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill this year giving FedEx more than $20 million in tax breaks for the hub. It's scheduled for completion in 2025.

^BILLIONAIRE GOVERNOR-SUBSIDIES

APNewsBreak: Billionaire governor's family farms get subsidy

LEWISBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A family business of West Virginia's billionaire governor has maxed out a taxpayer-funded subsidy program meant to help farmers through the U.S. trade war with China.

Records reviewed by The Associated Press show Justice Farms of North Carolina took in $125,000 from the program earlier this year. The business is owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

A spokesman for Justice's companies says tens of thousands of businesses received money under the subsidies and "it's absurd for anyone to use this important program as the basis for cynical political attacks."

The Republican governor owns a business empire of coal and agricultural companies that are perennially mired in litigation over unpaid bills. The farming company is named in a lawsuit accusing the businesses of transferring assets to avoid paying debt.

^TRUMP-G-7 SUMMIT

White House says next G-7 to be held at a Trump golf resort

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it has chosen President Donald Trump's golf resort in Miami as the site for next year's Group of Seven summit.

The announcement Thursday comes as the president has accused Joe Biden's family of profiting from public office because of Hunter Biden's business activities in Ukraine when his father was vice president.

The idea of holding the event June 10-12 at Trump's resort has been criticized by ethics watchdogs.

Trump has said the resort is close to the airport and offers plenty of hotel rooms and separate buildings for every delegation.

When the United States has hosted the summit before, it has been held in Puerto Rico; Williamsburg, Virginia; Houston; Denver; Sea Island, Georgia; and Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

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

The Associated Press

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