US trade deficit falls to $52.5 billion in September

The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade gap for September on Tuesday. File/AP

Stocks end mostly higher on Wall St.

NEW YORK — Stocks ended Tuesday mostly higher on Wall Street, marking another set of records for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 index slipped slightly on Tuesday, weighed down by losses in health care, technology and other sectors.

Banks and energy companies did well. Bank of America climbed 1.3 percent and Exxon Mobil added 2 percent. Medical device maker Medtronic gave up 1.5 percent.

Stocks opened higher as investors become more optimistic that the U.S. and China are making progress on scaling back their trade dispute.

Trade deficit falls to $52.5B in Sept.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit fell in September to the lowest level in five months as imports dropped more sharply than exports and America ran a rare surplus in petroleum.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the September gap between what America buys from abroad and what it sells shrank by 4.7 percent to $52.5 billion. That was down from the August deficit of $55 billion and was the smallest imbalance since April.

The politically sensitive deficit with China edged down 0.6 percent to $31.6 billion.

President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion in Chinese imports. China has retaliated with its own tariffs on American products as the world's two largest economies have engaged in a trade war that has rattled global financial markets and slowed economic growth.

The September deficit reflected the fact that imports fell 0.9 percent to $206 billion but imports fell an even faster 1.7 percent to $258.4 billion. For the first nine months of this year, the U.S. deficit is running 5.4 percent below the same period a year ago. The deficit for all of 2018 totaled $627.7 billion.

So far this year, the deficit with China is 12.8 percent lower than the same period a year ago although it remains the largest imbalance America runs with any country.

AT&T fined $60M over 'unlimited' plans

NEW YORK — AT&T will pay $60 million to settle the government's allegation that it misled customers of unlimited-data plans by slowing down service for heavy users.

The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that AT&T will automatically provide partial refunds to customers who signed up for unlimited wireless plans before 2011.

The FTC sued AT&T in 2014 for not clearly letting customers know that if they used up a certain amount of data, AT&T would slow their speeds so much that web browsing was almost impossible. It said then that AT&T had throttled at least 3.5 million customers.

The agency says AT&T is required to say prominently if data speeds or amounts are restricted.

Today, AT&T's website says it may slow speeds of unlimited plans after a certain amount of data is used.

Growth in services sector rebounds

WASHINGTON — U.S. service companies grew at a faster pace in October after sinking to a three-year low in September.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported Tuesday that its service index grew to 54.7% last month, up from 52.6% in September. Any reading above 50 signals growth.

Measures of sales, new orders and employment all rebounded from the previous month.

The service sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, has been expanding for 117 straight months, according to the survey-based ISM index.

Companies surveyed for the index say they are still having some difficulty finding workers, due to a historically low 3.6 percent unemployment rate.

US job openings fell in September

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised fewer open jobs in September compared with the previous month, but the number of open jobs remains high by historic standards.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of available jobs fell to 7 million, from 7.3 million in August. Job openings peaked at 7.6 million in November and have slowly declined since.

Overall hiring increased in September while the number of Americans quitting their jobs fell. Quits are typically a good sign because most workers leave a job when they have found a new one, often for better pay.

Despite the decline in openings, the report suggests the job market broadly remains healthy. The number of unemployed workers has also fallen, leaving 1.2 open jobs, on average, for every unemployed person.

New Orleans opens new airport terminal

NEW ORLEANS — The old Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will soon be a thing of the past.

City and state officials Tuesday cut the ribbon on the city's new $1.3 billion airport terminal which is scheduled to open to the public Wednesday. The terminal had been scheduled to open in May 2018, but the opening was pushed back after various delays.

The 927,000-square-foot building will feature several amenities, including three rooms for mothers to bring small children, music venues, and charging locations at 50 percent of the seats at the gates. There are also 8,000 parking spaces available.

All flights scheduled to arrive at the old terminal after 8 p.m. Tuesday will be moved to the new terminal, excluding three Southwest Airlines flights.

Prada loan is tied to eco-metrics

MILAN — The Prada fashion group has signed what is billed as the first business loan in the luxury goods sector linking the annual interest rate to practices that help the environment.

Prada said Tuesday that the five-year, $55 million loan with Credit Agricole Group will see interest rates lowered based on "achievement of ambitious targets related to sustainability."

The targets include the number of stores that meet defined standards for "green" buildings, education workshops for employees and the use of regenerated nylon in collections.

The fashion world, recognized as the second most polluting industry after oil, has been working in recent years to adopt more environment-friendly practices. Prada's efforts include a project, called Prada Re-Nylon, to use recycled nylon made from plastic recovered from oceans in its trademark nylon bags.

Wire reports