Stocks up despite conflicting tariff news
NEW YORK — In the stock market, it's all about trade now.
Stocks were jumping early Thursday after China said both sides in the U.S.-China trade war had agreed to roll back tariffs if their talks progress. But an afternoon report from Reuters citing fierce opposition within the White House to the agreement undercut the enthusiasm, and the majority of the market's gains evaporated.
Encouraging reports on the economy and corporate profits have helped drive stocks back to record heights in recent weeks. The U.S. job market remains strong, and the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates three times since the summer to bolster the economy. Earnings for big companies, meanwhile, weren't as bad in the summer as Wall Street had feared.
That leaves the U.S. trade war as the wildcard for the global economy, and markets are trading on every whiff of movement about it as a result.
"It's not that trade is more important to the market than economic growth or than the Fed," said Steve Chiavarone, equity strategist at Federated Investors. "It's that the market has already priced in that picture" of a still solid economy and easier interest rates.
"What's left to be determined is trade, and there's a greater amount of uncertainty because we've had head fakes before."
HP gets 'proposal' from Xerox
NEW YORK — Computer and printer maker HP Inc. said it had received a "proposal" from copier maker Xerox and has had conversations "from time to time" with the company about a potential business combination.
HP said Wednesday that it received the proposal on Tuesday but did not provide details. It said it will do what is in the best interests of its shareholders.
Asked for details of the proposal, a Xerox spokeswoman said the company does not comment on "rumors and speculation." The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that Xerox was considering making a bid for HP.
Both companies have faced difficulties as the demand for printed documents and ink have waned. They have both been trying to cut costs to boost results.
Benefits promised if Sprint deal OK'd
NEW YORK — T-Mobile promises a new $15 wireless plan if its $26.5 billion Sprint deal goes through.
T-Mobile is also promising free internet to emergency first responders for 10 years and to low-income households with children for five years. The $15 plan is for anyone, but comes with just 2 gigabytes of data per month.
Federal regulators have approved the deal.
But attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia aim to block it, saying it will raise prices for consumers. A trial is to start in December.
T-Mobile has already made promises to get the deal done, including providing coverage in rural areas and not raising prices for three years.
Regulators could fine T-Mobile for breaking the earlier promises, but T-Mobile isn't legally required to fulfill the new ones.
Auto, student loans push borrowings up
WASHINGTON — Consumer borrowing rose in September at a modest pace, led by higher student and auto loans, though a category that mostly includes credit cards fell for the second straight month.
The Federal Reserve says that overall consumer borrowing increased 2.8 percent to $4.15 trillion. A category that covers student and auto loans rose 4.2 percent, while credit card debt fell 1.2 percent.
Americans are spending at a solid pace but in recent months have relied less on borrowing. Steady, if modest, income growth has enabled consumers to shop more while also stepping up saving. A separate government report showed that spending rose in September, but incomes increased more, lifting the savings rate to 8.3 percent, the highest in six months.
The Fed borrowing report is closely watched for signs about the strength of consumer spending.
Gap CEO exits amid sales slump
NEW YORK — Gap says CEO Art Peck is stepping down as the company continues to grapple with slumping sales.
Peck, who has been CEO since 2015, will be temporarily replaced by Gap's non-executive chairman of the board Robert Fisher. Peck will also step down from the Gap's board.
The company is in the midst of splitting into two publicly traded companies, one for its Old Navy brand and another for the Gap, Banana Republic and its other brands.
The San Francisco-based retailer on Thursday also cut its earnings outlook for the year, and said sales at the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy fell in the most recent quarter.
Toyota profit up on healthy sales
TOKYO — Japan's top automaker Toyota said Thursday its net profit edged 1 percent higher to about $5.4 billion in July-September as vehicle sales grew around the world.
The maker of the Prius hybrid, Corolla subcompact and Lexus luxury models also stuck to its net profit forecast for the fiscal year through March 2020, at $20 billion.
Vehicle sales for the latest quarter grew both in Japan and overseas, including in the U.S., the rest of Asia and Europe.
Quarterly sales rose 4 percent to $70 billion from the same period a year ago.
Toyota said it expects to sell 10.7 million vehicles globally for the fiscal year through March 2020, up from 10.6 million vehicles the previous fiscal year.
Wildfires spark big losses at PG&E
SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric is reporting substantial losses for the third quarter, driven by catastrophic wildfires that have been blamed on the utility's outdated transmission lines. The company anticipates those costs could escalate to as much as $6.3 billion.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January to deal with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities from wildfires that its equipment may have ignited in 2017 and 2018, including a wildfire last November that essentially wiped out the Northern California town of Paradise and killed 85 people.
The company is also facing criticism for intentional blackouts that have left millions without power as it tries to limit wildfires during dry, windy conditions.
California's governor on Friday threatened a possible takeover of the troubled utility unless it can emerge from bankruptcy ahead of next year's wildfire season with a plan focused on safety. The company has said it prefers to work its way out of bankruptcy protection, but will need the help of government, insurance companies and investors.
Home loan rates fall from 3-month high
WASHINGTON — Mortgage rates slipped this week from the highest level since July and remain at historically low levels that are helping would-be purchasers to buy homes.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.69 percent from 3.7 percent last week. That's also down more than a full percentage point from a year ago when it was 4.94%.
The average rate on a 15-year mortgage fell to 3.13 percent from 3.19 percent.
Resort exec takes helm of SeaWorld
ORLANDO, Fla. — An executive from the timeshare and resort industries is taking over as CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment.
The theme park company on Thursday said Sergio Rivera will be the next chief executive, and he'll join the company's board, starting next week. He succeeds Gustavo "Gus" Antorcha, who stepped down in September, just months into his tenure as chief executive. Antorcha said in a resignation statement that he had a different approach than the board.
Rivera previously served as the president and CEO of ILG Inc.'s vacation ownership segment. Before that, Rivera worked for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
Toy Hall of Fame has new inductees
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Matchbox cars, the coloring book and the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
The newest honorees debuted decades ago but occupy store shelves even today.
The Class of 2019 was installed Thursday from a group of finalists that also included Care Bears, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Jenga, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Nerf Blaster, Risk, the smartphone and the top.
Anyone can nominate a toy, but to make it into the hall a toy has to be innovative, widely recognized, and foster creativity or discovery through play. A national selection committee picks the winners.