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Stocks edge lower

NEW YORK (AP) — The major stock indexes are edging lower in midday trading on Wall Street.

Traders are looking for clarity on the status of U.S.-China trade talks. Chinese officials said Thursday that a rollback of tariffs should be part of any deal.

The tech sector is showing the biggest decline. Cisco fell 7.4% after giving investors a surprisingly weak revenue forecast.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.81%.


Powell dismisses recession concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the United States has the “star economy” in the world at the moment and there is no reason to believe a recession is imminent.

In a second day of congressional testimony, Powell was pressed by some members of the House Budget Committee to forecast whether the risks of a recession are now elevated given that the country is in its 11th year of the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.

Powell said, “There is no reason to believe that the probability of a recession is elevated at this time.” He said the expectation at the Fed is for continued growth. He said a slowdown in manufacturing was being offset by strong consumer spending.

He said three of the country’s four longest economic expansions have occurred over the last four decades and one reason for that has been the elimination of periodic bouts of high inflation.


US long-term mortgage rates rise; 30-year at 3.75%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose this week amid optimism over prospects for the U.S. economy. Rates remain at historically low levels, however, as an incentive to prospective homebuyers.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped to 3.75% from 3.69% last week. By contrast, the benchmark rate stood at 4.94% a year ago.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage increased to 3.2% this week from 3.13% last week.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress this week that the central bank remains optimistic about the U.S. economy, though it still faces risks from slower growth overseas and trade tensions.


US producer prices up 0.4% in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. producer prices rose 0.4% in October, the biggest jump in six months, reflecting a surge in energy costs.

The Labor Department says the October increase in its producer price index, which measures price pressures before they reach consumers, followed a 0.3% decrease in September.

Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.3% in October. Over the past year, wholesale prices are up a modest 1.1% while core prices have risen 1.6%.

On Wednesday, the government reported that consumer prices rose 0.4% in October, the fastest pace since March, with that gain also driven by a surge in energy prices.


China lifts ban on US poultry after 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — China is reopening its market to U.S. poultry, ending a five-year ban.

China had blocked U.S. poultry imports after an outbreak of avian influenza in December 2014, closing off a market that bought more than $500 million worth of American chicken, turkey and other poultry products in 2013.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday that the U.S. welcomes the decision and predicted that U.S. poultry exports to China could surpass $1 billion a year.

The Chinese market looks especially promising for U.S. poultry producers because an outbreak of African swine fever has devastated a competing protein in China: pork.

Shares in major U.S. chicken processers, Sanderson Farms, Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride climbed to new highs for the year Thursday.


Walmart’s online sales are surging heading into holidays

UNDATED (AP) — Walmart is raising its profit expectations with online sales surging 41% the third quarter.

The world’s biggest retailer reported particularly strong sales in the grocery aisle where competition is growing increasingly fierce.

The company on Thursday posted net income of $3.29 billion, or $1.15 per share. Per-share earnings were $1.16 when adjusted, easily topping Wall Street projections of $1.09, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue was $127.99 billion in the period, and sales at stores opened at least a year rose 3.2%, marking the 21st straight quarter of increases.


California’s wildfire, blackout crisis: Who’s to blame?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The utility that serves more than 5 million electrical customers in one of the world’s most technologically advanced areas is now faced again and again with a no-win decision: risk starting catastrophic deadly wildfires, or turn off the lights and immiserate millions of paying customers.

Pacific Gas & Electric is in bankruptcy, facing $30 billion in liabilities, billions more in needed upgrades to its system and an uncertain path to safely providing reliable power to a vast portion of California.

How that came to be is a story not of a single villain but of systemic failure by the utility’s management, the regulators who oversee it and the politicians who let it all happen. It’s a story of climate change, a housing crisis and an aging power system that, like much of the infrastructure in the U.S., has fallen into disrepair.

The problem and its potential solutions have jumped to the top of the California political agenda. But most experts agree: Even under the best scenarios, the fires and widespread power shutoffs will be here for years to come. In the meantime, Californians will pay higher prices for less reliable energy.


Leader of pilots’ union blasts Boeing over grounded plane

DALLAS (AP) — The union president of Southwest Airlines pilots worries that Boeing may be rushing the 737 Max back into service, and he says Southwest should consider buying planes from another company.

The union president, Jon Weaks, adds that Boeing has exhibited arrogance and greed that will haunt the company forever.

Weaks made the comments in a memo to members of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which is already suing Boeing over money that pilots have lost because the grounding of the Max has led Southwest to cancel many flights.

Southwest has taken Max jets out of its schedule until early March. The airline’s fleet consists entirely of Boeing 737s, most of them earlier versions of the plane.

The Max has been grounded worldwide since March after two deadly crashes.


Consumer Reports finds vehicle redesigns come with glitches

DETROIT (AP) — When it comes to buying a new car, the latest and greatest may not be the most dependable.

In its annual auto reliability survey, Consumer Reports found that while newly redesigned models have the latest safety and fuel-economy technology, they also come with glitches that frustrate owners.

Problem-prone new models caused brands such as Acura, Volkswagen and Audi to fall in the annual rankings.

Overall, Japanese brands Lexus, Mazda and Toyota led the reliability rankings, followed by Porsche and Genesis. Rounding out the top 10 were Hyundai, Subaru, Dodge, Kia and Mini.

General Motors’ Cadillac was the least reliable of 30 brands, followed by Alfa Romeo, Acura, Volkswagen and Jeep. The remaining least-reliable brands were Chevrolet, Volvo, Tesla, GMC and Mercedes-Benz.


Epstein estate seeks to form fund to compensate accusers

NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for the estate of Jeffrey Epstein want to set up a fund to compensate women who have accused him of sexual abuse.

The estate filed papers Thursday in the U.S. Virgin Islands asking a court there to approve the voluntary claims program.

They say that it would be managed by Kenneth Feinberg, a mediator known for administering payouts in other high-profile civil cases.

The 66-year-old Epstein killed himself in his New York City prison cell in August after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.

The wealthy financier had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

Feinberg said that if the fund is approved, the accusers could begin receiving payments early next year.

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