Update on the latest in business:

Posted May 16


US stocks waver in midday trading on Wall Street

The major U.S. stock indexes are wavering between small gains and losses in trading this afternoon, a day after the market closed at record highs. Investors have been sizing up the latest crop of company earnings and new data on home construction and industrial production. Health care and real estate companies have dropped more than the rest of the market. Technology stocks are leading the gainers.

At 12:48 p.m. Eastern Time, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 8 points, to 20,990. The Nasdaq composite index was up 12 points, at 6,161. And the S&P 500 index fell less than 1 point to 2,401.


US housing starts fell 2.6 percent in April

Construction of new homes fell for a second straight month in April, pushing activity to the lowest point in five months.

The Commerce Department says housing starts fell 2.6 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million units. That followed a 6.6 percent decline in March and left home building at its lowest point since last November. The weakness was led by a big drop in construction of apartments, a volatile sector.

Housing construction has been one of the bright spots for the economy. Analysts expect that the number of Americans seeking homes will rebound in coming months, driven by strong employment gains and low unemployment.


US industrial production posts biggest gain since 2014

American industry expanded production last month at the fastest pace in more than three years as manufacturers and mines recovered from a March downturn.

The Federal Reserve says industrial production at U.S. factories, mines and utilities shot up 1 percent in April from March, the biggest gain since February 2014 and the third straight monthly gain. The increase was more than twice what economists had expected.

Factory production rose 1 percent after declining 0.4 percent in March. Mine production increased 1.2 percent after falling 0.4 percent in March. And utility output rose 0.7 percent after surging 8.2 percent in March.


UN predicts expanding global economic growth in 2017-2018

The United Nations is predicting expanding global economic growth in the next two years, spurred by stronger growth in the last six months and a modest recovery in trade and investment.

In its mid-year update, the U.N. says the acceleration is underpinned by firm economic growth in many developed countries and strengthened prospects in countries in transition.

But the report says, "the outlook for some developing regions has deteriorated since January" and "prospects for Africa, in particular, raise concerns."

It's forecast negligible per capital growth in central, southern and west Africa as well as in South America in 2017-2018.

But the U.N. overall forecast global economic growth of 2.7 percent this year and 2.9 percent in 2018 compared with just 2.2 percent in 2016.


European car sales drop in April but remain up for the year

European car sales dipped by 6.6 percent in April due to the impact of the Easter holiday, but remained up overall in the first four months.

The ACEA European carmakers' association said Tuesday that 1.1 million units were sold in April, with Britain posting a nearly 20-percent decline. Germany, France and Italy had single-digit slides.

Still, sales for January-April showed a resilient 5-percent rise.

Stung by the emissions scandal, Volkswagen brand deliveries were down 14 percent, with its commanding market share dipping below 25 percent.

Luxury carmaker BMW's sales were down 6 percent while Daimler slipped 2.7 percent. Competitor Audi, part of the VW group, took a 10-percent hit.

Mass-market competitors fell in the same range: PSA Group down 6.4 percent, Renault down 2.6 percent and Fiat Chrysler flat.


Delphi joins BMW-Intel-Mobileye autonomous car partnership

The automotive parts and electronics maker Delphi is the latest company to partner with BMW, Intel and Mobileye in a joint bid to develop autonomous vehicles.

The companies say Delphi will help to integrate autonomous driving systems. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined forces in July of 2016. They plan to start producing automated vehicle systems by 2021.

The broadening coalition that includes Delphi is one of a growing number of partnerships between tech and auto giants.

The companies say Delphi already has provided a prototype computing platform that melds sensors, artificial intelligence and other computers. They plan to develop a system that can be used by other automakers.

More partners could be added to the group. Delphi Corp. is based in suburban Detroit.


Teen clothing retailer Rue 21 restructuring under Chapter 11

Teen clothing retailer rue21 is restructuring and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection about a month after announcing it would close roughly 400 stores to focus on online sales.

The company plans to keep open more than 700 stores in 48 states.

The Pennsylvania-based company says its bankruptcy filing accompanies agreements with lenders to restructure some debt and obtain more capital.

The company says it could wind up closing more stores before it emerges from bankruptcy in the fall.


Thailand backs off threat to block Facebook over content

Thailand has backed off a threat to block Facebook, instead providing the social media site with court orders to remove content that the government deems illegal.

Thailand made the threat last week as it wanted Facebook to block more than 130 posts it considers a threat to national security or in violation of Thai law, which makes insults to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Thailand's military government has made prosecuting royal insults a priority since seizing power in a coup three years ago.


Benin, Mozambique planes come off EU air safety blacklist

The European Union has removed all airlines from Benin and Mozambique from its air safety blacklist after the companies addressed the bloc's safety concerns.

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc says the airlines' removal from the blacklist showed their reforms and cooperation have paid off.

The blacklist is widely seen as a major business incentive for airlines to uphold safety standards.

But four carriers have been added to the list: Nigeria's Med-View, Mustique Airways from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ukraine's Aviation Company Urga and Air Zimbabwe.


Feds and Walmart allege canned tuna prices fixed

Criminal and civil court records updated this week allege that executives of the most popular tuna brands in the U.S. — Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee and StarKist — conspired regularly to keep prices high for consumers.

A typical can of tuna today costs about $1.50 and the U.S. Department of Justice says that price may be the result of price fixing by Thai, South Korean and U.S. seafood dealers, while major retailers are suing alleging they've been ripped off.

The U.S. government began investigating criminal price fixing between the three companies more than two years ago.


McDonald's pulls UK ad that upset bereavement groups

McDonald's has pulled a British television ad that was accused of using child bereavement to sell fast food.

The ad shows a boy talking to his mother about his late father and wondering what they had in common. They go to a McDonald's where the boy orders a Filet-o-Fish and the mother says, "That was your dad's favorite too."

Bereavement charity Grief Encounter says it's received "countless calls" complaining about the ad and calls it insensitive.

McDonald's says it didn't mean to upset anyone, but "wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives — both in good and difficult times."

McDonald's says it's pulling the ad and would "review our creative process to ensure this situation never occurs again."


Philadelphia sues Wells Fargo, alleging minority loan bias

Philadelphia is suing Wells Fargo & Co., claiming the bank overcharged more than 1,000 minority homeowners on mortgage loans since 2004. ( ) is reporting that the federal lawsuit cites six confidential informants who used to work for the bank. The lawsuit says unnecessarily expensive loans drove black and Hispanic borrowers toward foreclosure, costing the city unpaid taxes and lowering property values.

Wells Fargo spokesman James Baum says the city's allegations are "unsubstantiated" and "do not reflect how we operate in Philadelphia" and elsewhere.

Baum says similar lawsuits brought in other states have been rejected by courts.


Amazon's streaming software powers new smart TVs

Amazon's streaming TV software will appear on a new line of smart TVs designed to blend streaming TV services and over-the-air channels, but not cable packages.

The TVs from Element Electronics will be sold under the Element and Westinghouse brands and will cost more than regular smart TVs from either brand. Officials say the TVs have better hardware for reliable streaming and aren't designed for casual viewers who buy TVs only to never hook them up to the internet.

Prices range from $449 for a 43-inch TV to $899 for 65 inches. The new TVs, called Amazon Fire TV Edition, will be capable of displaying sharper video known as 4K resolution, though most TV shows and movies are available only in high definition, the standard on TVs today.


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