Business Highlights

Business Highlights

Associated Press

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Fed holds steady on rates, seeks further economic gains

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve appears on track to raise interest rates later this year but signaled Wednesday that it wants to see further economic gains and higher inflation before doing so.

A statement from the Fed after its latest policy meeting provided no timetable. Many analysts foresee the first hike in September, though Fed Chair Janet Yellen has stressed that any increase will be driven by the latest economic data.

The statement noted that the job market, housing and consumer spending have all improved. The Fed still expects inflation to rise gradually toward its 2 percent target

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Will the Internet listen to your private conversations?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The "Internet of Things" promises to usher in an era of automated homes outfitted with locks, lights, thermostats, entertainment systems and servants such as Amazon's Echo that respond to spoken words.

It's also raising the specter of Internet-connected microphones being secretly used as a wiretap, either by a company providing a digital service, government officials with court orders or intruders that seize control of the equipment.

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Zero-percent financing turns heads, but may not be best deal

DETROIT (AP) -- When a car dealer offers to loan you the money to buy a car at zero interest, it gets your attention. Yet that cheap money might not be the best deal you can get.

Dealers can offer zero-percent financing through automakers' finance companies because, unlike banks, they make money on the sale of the car and don't need to rake in interest payments.

Before biting on the zero-percent financing, check for other deals such as cash-back offers.

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Review: 5 ways Windows 10 fixes annoyances in predecessor

NEW YORK (AP) -- It took me just a weekend to get comfortable with Microsoft's new Windows 10 operating system, something I never did with its predecessor, Windows 8, even after nearly three years.

With Wednesday's update, Windows no longer feels jarring, as though I'm using two different computers at once.

Best part: This update is free.

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Facebook stock slides even as 2Q results soar

NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook's second-quarter revenue barely squeaked past Wall Street's outsized expectations, sending its high-flying stock down in after-hours trading.

While the results surpassed forecasts on all fronts, some investors may have been looking for a bigger beat, or simply cashing in on some profits as Facebook's shares have been trading near record highs.

The world's largest online social network continued to expand its massive user base, reaching 1.49 billion monthly users as of June 30, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

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FTC investigating online college University of Phoenix

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The University of Phoenix, an online college popular among military veterans, is under federal investigation for possible deceptive or unfair business practices, its parent company the Apollo Education Group announced Wednesday.

The for-profit, publicly traded company is the largest recipient of federal student aid for veterans and often a sponsor at military education and employment events.

In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company told shareholders that it received a "civil investigative demand" from the Federal Trade Commission this week.

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US pending home sales slip in June

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of signed contracts to buy homes fell in June, as limited supplies of homes on the market are holding back possible sales growth.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index declined 1.8 percent to 110.3 last month. Still, strong demand from would-be buyers has pushed the index up 8.2 percent during the past 12 months.

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Lew gets more than 1 million comments on currency redesign

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday he's gotten more than a million responses to his request for comments on how U.S. currency should be redesigned and recommendations for what woman should become the first female on U.S. paper money in more than a century.

Lew said it has been a "remarkable outpouring" of everything from tweets and retweets to handwritten letters.

He said among the "interesting commentary" are suggestions to replace some of the buildings now on the currency with more direct depictions of the democracy theme that will be used in the redesign.

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Better economy has smokers buying more Marlboros

NEW YORK (AP) -- A better economy is helping sell more Marlboros and Camels, even as prices climb. That brought higher profits for their makers in the second quarter.

Marlboro maker Altria Inc. has now seen two straight quarters of upticks in cigarettes sold. That is unusual at a time when tobacco companies have routinely seen declines, as people smoke less because of tax increases, smoking bans, health concerns and increasing social stigma.

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Whole Foods: Sales hurt by bad publicity from overcharging

NEW YORK (AP) -- Whole Foods' sales are hurting from bad publicity over its overcharging of customers in New York City.

The grocery chain known for its organic offerings noted that sales growth slowed sharply in the last two weeks of the quarter ending July 5. That was after New York City officials said an audit found the chain's stores were overcharging customers by overstating the weight of pre-packed products — a finding that Whole Foods noted made national news.

The company said sales at established locations were still weak in the current quarter.

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Twitter stock tumbles as user growth stalls

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tepid user growth and ongoing uncertainty about its leadership dragged Twitter's stock to its lowest level in over a year Wednesday, even though the short-messaging service reported sharply quarterly higher revenue.

Twitter is "not satisfied" with its user growth, co-founder Jack Dorsey, who replaced Dick Costolo as CEO earlier this month, said Tuesday after the earnings report. But that's unlikely to change any time soon.

Twitter doesn't expect to see "sustained, meaningful growth" of its number of users until it reaches the mass market, said Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto. This, he said, will take considerable time.

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China auto sales slump hits industry fortunes

BEIJING (AP) -- General Motors Co.'s $5 billion initiative to create cars for China and other emerging markets comes just as automakers face a collapse in the booming Chinese demand they were counting on to power their growth.

June sales in the biggest car market by number of vehicles sold shrank by 3.4 percent from a year earlier as an economic slowdown deepened and smog-choked cities tried to curb growth in car ownership.

Sales growth has cooled from 2009's explosive peak of 45 percent, but the latest figures surprised analysts, who were forecasting a healthy 7 to 8 percent for this year.

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Yahoo plays catch-up in messaging with video texting app

NEW YORK (AP) -- Imagine making a video call without other people being able to listen in.

Yahoo is trying to make that happen with Livetext, a new app that seeks to make video calling as private as texting.

Yahoo says video calls can be better than texts for expressing emotions, but their audio component makes private conversations public. With Livetext, you message friends by typing, just like texting, but you see video of friends without the audio.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 121.12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,751.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 15.32 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,108.57. The Nasdaq composite advanced 22.53 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,111.73.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 81 cents to close at $48.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 8 cents to close at $53.38 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.9 cents to close at $1.822 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.6 cent to close at $1.598 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6.5 cents to close at $2.886 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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